Amygdalae(s) Realize!

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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.

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Dr. Gewirtz will look into the relationship between memory and emotion (including beta-blockers) when he returns after the second exam.

The article you cite was good, interesting. It made me think of the film, "The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?" Do you know it? It is based on the premise that one can eradicate specific memories (in the film, memories of a bad romance.)

I have seen that movie! I'm surprised it didn't come to mind for me right away; it's one of my favorites. Now that I think of it, a hiding place for the protagonist was a memory so painful and powerful that it was buried in his mind. He probably has his amygdala to thank.

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This page contains a single entry by E. Carriere published on September 23, 2011 3:40 PM.

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