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Amygdala Hijacking
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The Amygdala, Sexual Desire and the Prefrontal Cortex
The Seat of Emotion - The Amygdala
Politics and the Amygdala
Bilateral Symmetry

The Seat of Emotion - The Amygdala

‘... the amygdala, which imparts agreeable or disagreeable affective colorations to perceptions.’


 

When we experience an exhilaratingly good or bad situation the memory lodges in the amygdala, so that any repeat of the precursors of that memory gets a preconditioned response which can lead to Pavlovian type complexes related to a person’s latent memory pictures (or engrams).
 
To clarify this response with a few bad examples:
• You see a snake – the amygdala says “Fight or flight”, the prefrontal cortex says: “Why? - he’s not doing us any harm!”
• You see a potential mate and although you’re married, the amygdala says: “Go for it”; the prefrontal cortex says: “This won’t end well.”
• Dr Who is in an episode that’s threatening the destruction of humanity; the amygdala feels the fear and says: “Kill it”; the prefrontal cortex says: “We are all substrates of life, let’s see if we can talk this out!”

The Amygdala, Sexual Desire and the Prefrontal Cortex 

Research shows that it takes about 0.2 seconds for a person to assess another’s desirability and in that time the brain activates the visual senses, the emotional senses and the ‘higher’ centres of self-awareness; but it doesn’t activate them in any particular order - the higher brain may dictate to the other centres what it wants to see, or the emotional centres may put feelings or memories in front of ‘form’.


 


 

Sexual desire and arousal is inflamed by the learned responses of past experiences that preside in the amygdala while at the same time being managed by the more considered evaluations of the prefrontal cortex.

Amygdala Hijacking

‘Alcohol intoxication reduces communication between two areas of the brain (the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex) that work together to properly interpret and respond to social signals.’


 

Politics and the Amygdala

The dominant side of the brain, which is associated with speech and logic, aligns with Carl Jung’s ‘ego’ while the creative side aligns with Jung’s ‘unconscious self’. Jung believed that most of our great discoveries have come from tapping into the unconscious; but surely the greatest thing about the human brain is its ability for speech and rationality?

 

In actual fact people use both sides of the brain depending on what they are doing, and each side contributes to answers – even though most people have a leaning one way or the other.


 

The Neuroscience of Creativity

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The Neuroscience of Creativity

An observant person should know when the amygdala has got it wrong

 by the strength of the reaction,

its sudden onset

and its inappropriateness.

The amygdala responds to pleasure experiences as much as it does to fearful ones, and well developed amygdalae types tend towards more complex social networks.


 

It’s important to remember that sex was invented 650 million years before the brain, so the brain didn’t invent sexual responses but had to adapt to something that was already out there. We had to find a way to absorb this life-giving function into our cohesive societies, and this was by way of laws and cultural protocols.


 

But to regulate an evolutionary impulse designed to ensure the survival of the species you need more than laws and protocols since it is in our animal nature to periodically feel the sensual pleasures designed to enhance creational vigour.


 

The slower decision making processes of the ‘higher’ mind can be hijacked by the ‘primitive’ amygdala, such that the higher mind is overridden by powerful associations registered in the memory from prior experiences. These are the sources of addictions, fears, lusts and the whole gamut of learned emotional responses.

 

Addictions that involve positive reinforcement relate to pleasure while negative reinforcements act to alleviate pain, depression and social isolation. Both types of amygdala hijacking can act in varying degrees at the same.


 

We may reward ourselves for work completed or we may choose a reward pathway as a means of relieving mental discomfort. These proclivities are usually built through experiences surrounding our growth environment which includes everything we’ve experienced up to the present and with the family influences of our youth holding greatest sway.

Likewise you can change your own connections between trigger events and reward/punishment outcomes by being attentive to negative outcomes and consciously deciding that you want to change your behaviour. In this respect mindfulness is an aid which focuses your thoughts, corrals physical sensations and moderates primitive emotions.

 

Meditation is slightly different in that it attempts to totally stop thought processes and by doing so balances the left and right sides of the brain, improving forebrain function and pacifying the parasympathetic nervous. system.


 

Writers create emotional situations that activate your amygdala so you feel involved while politicians use the same emotional stimulus to con you into voting for them. Meanwhile the thing that really matters is our own lives - and it takes a life time of experiences for our prefrontal cortex to fully recognise a lifetime of amygdala hijackings.

A Jedi knight would appeal to the evolving processes of the higher mind by way of mindfulness in action and meditative calm in reflection. When the world is viewed like this it’s as if you were watching in the third person and your life then becomes the most interesting film you’ve ever watched.


 

The Veils of Maya

The first veil to vanish is ignorance;

and when that is gone, unskilful behaviour goes;

next desire ceases, selfishness ends, and all misery disappears.


 

Neuroscientists have found an association between the size of the right amygdala and political leaning which has proven to be 71% statistically correct. Their reasoning is that conservative voters have larger right amygdala since they fear change while tending to cling to traditions and loyalties. Progressive types tend to have smaller right amygdala and are more motivated by issues of fairness and violence.

 

Since 2008 the political climate in the US has seen a rapid rise in ‘independent’ voters and this suggests a whole lot of amygdala rewiring - along with the chaos of breaking traditions and loyalties.


 

Bilateral Symmetry

The first animals were simple symmetrical blob-like sponges which appeared about 360 million years before the brain. The next big evolutionary step was bilateral symmetry and this occurred 50 million years before the brain and is now an essential part of all vertebrates.

 

The brain has bilateral symmetry with each side having particular tendencies. The left side of the brain controls the right side of the body (and vice versa) and has a greater input into language and logic; while the right side is more spatially aware and creative.


 

Anomalies do exist, with 5% of right hander’s having the speech center in the right side of the brain, as do 30% of left hander’s. (There is evidence to suggest that forcefully changing a left hander to a right hander causes stuttering.)

 

The corpus callosum connects the two sides of the brain and is larger in females – which is attributed to the complex evolutionary role of women as mothers. The extension of this fact would point towards women being more suited to the politics of interpersonal relationships. Unfortunately current day politics is more about power than rational solutions so it will be sometime yet before the amygdala response recognises women as equals.


 

Recent studies of brain activation during creative processes indicate the recruitment of many interacting brain networks depending on the type and stage of the creative endeavour. Three major networks have been identified, these being:

·       The Executive Attention Network which focuses on the job at hand;                               

·       The Imagination Network which uses past personal experiences to create alternative perspectives;                             

·        The Salience Network which relates external events to internal understandings.                             

 

(There is still a bilateral effect in that spatial reasoning recruits more structures in the right hemisphere, while language processing recruits more structures in the left hemisphere.)

 

The same complexity of interaction occurs with music where the interactive neurons of the brain break into a symphony of agreement.


 

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