Amygdala who cares

pspangle at global.california.com pspangle at global.california.com
Sun May 12 22:57:45 EST 1996


     As I understand it, exposure to a painful stimulus triggers 
the amygdala, which has widespread efferent connections to the 
rest of the brain.  Neurotransmitters from the amygdala enhance 
the long-term potentiation of whatever neurons are firing at the 
time, so that only one exposure to the painful stimulus is 
required for other stimuli associated with it (e.g. visual 
stimuli) to be "remembered."  The neural paths involved 
include reverse connections to the amygdala.  Thus when the 
associated stimuli appear again -- or maybe only some of them -- 
the amygdala triggers again to produce the response appropriate 
to the original painful stimulus.
     At the same time, inhibitory connections to the amygdala 
from the prefrontal cortex can suppress the amygdala's response; 
i.e. we can "control" our fear.

REFERENCES:

Michael S. Gazzaniga (ed.), "The Cognitive Neurosciences," MIT 
Press, Cambridge, MA (1995) -- has a whole section on emotion.

Several presentations at the third annual meeting of the 
Cognitive Neuroscience Society,  March 31 - April 2, 1996, in San 
Francisco California dealt with emotion:

Neurobiology of Emotion -- Antonio Damasio (U. of Iowa, College 
of Medicine)

Functional Organization of the Primate Amygdala -- David Amaral 
(UC Davis)

Emotion, Memory, and the Brain -- Joseph LeDoux






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