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7 amazing facts about the amygdala

We often think of our brain as one large organ within our skulls, but it actually consists of many small structures that allow us to walk, speak, think, and feel. Among these structures, one of the better known is the amygdala, which has been found to play an extremely important role in many social and emotional processes and affects everything from health to addiction. Below are seven interesting facts about the amygdala.

1. The amygdala is not really one structure…

One of the more well-known structures of the brain – the amygdala – is located deep in the outer lower temporal lobe. This almond-shaped area is part of the limbic system and is actually a paired structure, with parts in both temporal lobes.

But it is possible to survive with just one, claims Rahual Jandial, a neurosurgeon and neuroscientist at the Cancer Center in Los Angeles. “How do I know?” In fact, in studies in which the amygdala was removed from rats, monkeys or rabbits, animals live normal lives except for one significant new development: they do not feel fear.

2. Because the amygdala in the brain is a factory of fear.

Fear of snakes or the influence of horror movies can be largely attributed to the function of your amygdala, which “reacts before the frontal lobes are activated,” Jandial said. It is part of your instinctive brain and serves as an “emotional thermostat.” He added: “It is not only responsible for fear, but for all deep and visceral emotions – one of those ancient areas of the brain that can defy the demands of the frontal lobe.”

In a study published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, writes that “amygdala activity may represent the generation of emotional experience itself, and / or may reflect various aspects of emotional information processing that correlate with emotional experience.”

3. The amygdala has a real connection of mind and body

The amygdala has a purpose that goes beyond fear. It has been shown to aid in emotional learning, “where signs gain meaning through association with rewarding or repulsive events,” according to a paper published in the journal Current Opinion Neurobiology.

Recent research, the authors write, suggests that the amygdala regulates additional cognitive processes such as memory and attention.With its ability to interpret sensory stimuli in the world and translate them into physical reactions, the amygdala, as suggested by research published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, “can therefore represent embodied attention — a critical link between central (mental) and peripheral (physical) sources. “

4. Damage to the amygdala could make you horny and hungry.

An injured amygdala can cause a person to feel “super hungry, sexually aroused and fixed on putting things in their mouth,” Jandial said. In other cases, damage can lead to a reduced fear of risk and lead to an increase in risky behavior.

The researchers found that adult monkeys that underwent amygdalectomy “showed more pro-social signs and less avoidant behavior toward other (healthy) monkeys.” In one extreme case, damage to the amygdala dampened a woman’s ability to feel fear.

5. It also plays a big role in pain.

Fibromyalgia is a disease characterized by “widespread musculoskeletal pain with widespread sensitivity to several soft spots,” as described in a study in the journal Clinical Neuroscience. Brock said changes in amygdala volume and function play a role in fibromyalgia and chronic pain syndromes. This is the result of an amygdala that becomes hyper awake and overly sensitive to external sensations of pain or trauma, according to a study published in the journal Explore. “This results in depletion of the neuro-endocrine and immune systems as well as chronic physical and mental exhaustion, as well as a number of other secondary symptoms and further complications.”

6. The amygdala is key to understanding addiction.

Addiction is considered a disease of the brain in the medical community, not a lack of willpower or a character defect. In a study published in the journal Brain Research, the common addiction cycle consists of three phases – “preoccupation / anticipation, intoxication and withdrawal / negative affect – in which impulsivity often dominates the early stages and compulsiveness in the final stages.” The amygdala is recruited in the final phase of withdrawal, when the body sends stress signals forcing the person to crave more of the substance they are addicted to.

7. Despite advances in brain imaging technology, it is still difficult to study.

if we know much more about the amygdala than was known when it was discovered in monkeys in the 1930s, we still have a lot to learn. Because the amygdala is located deep in the brain and entangled with other, adjacent brain structures, it is difficult to find “the right ways to monitor its function, outcome, and all the areas it has a synaptic impact on. We hope that time and further scientific research will reveal this, ”said Brandon Brock of the Center for Cerebral Health in Texas.

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