The Amygdala: Our Lifesaver?

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Who could have guessed that such a tiny, almond shaped organ in our brain would have so much effect on our daily lives? The amygdala is stored in the limbic system (the emotional center of the brain) and it plays a key role in fear, excitement, and arousal. Scientists have discovered that without the amygdala, we become fearless. Fear is what keeps us grounded and guides us to make smart decisions. Without our amygdala, who knows what our lives would be like.

The article "Humans, Like Animals, Behave Fearlessly Without the Amygdala" demonstrates how vital the amygdala is to our lives. In the article, a woman who had holes in her amygdala displayed no fear. One night she walked through a park alone and was attacked by a man with a knife. The next night, she walked through the same park alone once again. Due to the holes in her amygdala, she was unable to make smart decisions that an average person would make.

The article "Human Brain Responds to Animals, Cute or Creepy" talks about how individual brain cells found in the amygdala respond only when we see animals. The reason that our brain pays so much attention to animals is likely because animals can pose as a threat to us. Whether an animal is cute or terrifying, the amygdala alerts us to their presence because it recognizes that animals are potentially dangerous.

I found an interesting video on YouTube that talks about how important fear is to our survival. In fact, our bodies can react to a threat before we are even consciously aware of it. Signals are sent to our amygdala via the optic nerve and it triggers the fight or flight response. We are then able to make a quick decision on whether to stay and fight our fear, or run away from it. Link to video: http://youtu.be/trPuXkbTpok

Last summer, I had a very memorable encounter with my amygdala. I was going on a run through my neighborhood at night when a pitbull appeared out of nowhere and started biting my leg. I started out with a fight response and tried kicking the dog to get it off of me, but that didn't work, so I chose the flight response and ran away as fast as I could. Luckily, a car drove by and scared the dog away. My amygdala was able to recognize that I was in danger and trigger my fight and flight response. Now, I know that it is probably not the best idea to run alone at night.

Saying that the amygdala is an important part of our lives is a complete understatement. What would our lives be like without it? Would it even be possible to survive?

By: Shannon Lee

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Shannon,
You have lovely start to this entry! I love all of your examples. Also, your personal amygdala experience is scary! I'm not sure I would even go into fight response I would probably just have a flight response. :) Some constructive crticism--maybe you could link the paper URLs that you talked about in the paper so if people who read the blog are interested in the paper, they could have easy access to it :) Just a thought! I didn't realize how valuable our amygdala was until I read your blog! Way to keep it interesting AND inform! LIke :)

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This page contains a single entry by leex5571 published on September 30, 2011 11:41 PM.

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