Amygdala: what a funny name. I had to chuckle when I discovered it was named for its simple almond shape rather than for its complex functions. But I suppose that's what the amygdala is all about, isn't it? Initial sensations.
While the amygdalae are probably most famous for their association with fear, I can't help but wonder about the enormous ripple effect that would occur if it were altered in various ways. Observations have been made, of course (monkeys and partial encephalectomies, a woman with lipoid proteinosis), but the emotions and behavior observed hold further implications: memory formation. Strong emotions make strong memories.
It seems like everything eventually connects. Recently I was doing a bit of research on dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system, and got to reading a little about beta-blockers that block action of epinephrine and norepinephrine. They are banned from the Olympics as they can reduce tremors and stage fright. Following links like a meandering digital bread crumb trail, I came across an article on beta-blockers and memory modulation.
No surprise that article was found at the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics! Questions seem to blossom in fractal patterns.
Without the amygdalae--or with altered amygdalae--what would the hippocampus have to put into context and sequence during memory formation? Would traumatic experiences and repressed memories cease to exist? On a grander scale: how has the amygdala affected evolution? Facial recognition, art, poetry, all manner of expression?
I immediately think of the amygdalae and mythologies. The Garden of Eden, for example, has been interpreted by various scholars as a metaphor for preconscious unity. I can see a link between that and the infantile experience of mature amygdalae but undeveloped hippocampus (and consequently infantile amnesia). I would love to investigate more creation myths to see whether there are parallels with the development of the human brain and consciousness.