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Thought You Knew Your Amygdala? Read This!

brain emotional regulation fear happiness learning mind neuroscience self-care

“Psychologists who wanted to study emotion had to pick one, and fear is the easiest to study in a human or animal. It’s difficult to know how to make a rabbit happy. It’s easier to know how to make organisms afraid.”

Here is a fast-paced, almost funny interview unpacking THE REAL AMYGDALA. 

Let’s see . . . did you know that our brain’s amygdala:

  • are actually, “amygdalae”? there are two of these little almond-shaped hunks, one per lateral side of our brains?
  • actually are responsible for far more than just alerting us to danger, setting off red flags, and activating our fear networks?
  • is more an “attentional” center than simply a fear center?

Actually, the amygdalae have a real role to play in learning. They make the rest of the brain better at learning. They call up the areas of the brain involved in learning and say, “pay attention here”.

What else? When we dig a bit deeper than the brief descriptions we get in the popular press about this piece of anatomy, it turns out that the amygdala has a role to play in :

  • sexual orientation
  • social interaction
  • aggression
  • alcoholism
  • learning and retention – encoding learning with emotion

I don’t often recommend this source, but for a decent run-down on the broader look at the amygdala’s activities (and anatomy of the piece itself — different cells within the amygdala have different purposes), scan:

And then, try making use of it! You can read about how to MODULATE YOUR AMYGDALA. You can also then teach others to modulate their own (kids, friends, staff). This is a good thing – it can reduce anxiety, increase calm, quiet reactivity, etc. 

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