Amygdala: The Logical Brain vs. the Emotional Brain

Charles Joseph Whitman (June 24, 1941 – August 1, 1966) was an American engineering student at the University of Texas, former U.S. Marine, and a mass murderer who killed 16 people.
Forensic investigators have theorized that the tumor may have been pressed against the nearby amygdala region of his brain. The brain contains two amygdalae, one on each side, and the amygdalae are known to affect fight-or-flight responses. Some neurologists have since speculated that Whitman’s medical condition was in some way responsible for the attacks,[82] in addition to his personal and social frames of reference.~https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Whitman
Despite the early growth of the left amygdala, the right increases in volume for a longer period of time. The left amygdala is associated with response to fearful stimuli as well as face recognition. It is inferred that the early development of the left amygdala functions to provide infants the ability to detect danger.~http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amygdala

The author will attempt to a make a difficult point that is certainly far from any possible scope of knowledge they should have.  The “point” might not be so scientific or well received by those so knowledgeable about the brain.  But the general reader should likely find it useful as many past students of the author have.  We wish simply to make a distinction between a logical side of the brain and an emotional side.  More so as a metaphor than a scientific distinction but this metaphor might be far more helpful than any current scientific divisions (or perhaps it is simply that science agrees with the author).

The amygdala is one of the best understood brain regions with regard to differences between the sexes. Larger male than female amygdalae have been demonstrated in children ages 7–11,[13] in adult humans,[14] and in adult rats.[15]

We might refer to the emotionally side as “Amygdala” or that we mean when the Amygdala is “flared” we are not able to access our “logical” portion of our brain.  This is in fact the distinction we mean to make, or in other words when we get emotional we lose our ability to use our logic. Much like banging ones fist while being unsuccessful in a certain attempt, when such an act only serves to hurt our hand and never usually to accomplish the desired task.

In addition to size, other differences between men and women exist with regards to the amygdala. Subjects’ amygdala activation was observed when watching a horror film. The results of the study showed a different lateralization of the amygdala in men and women. Enhanced memory for the film was related to enhanced activity of the left, but not the right, amygdala in women, whereas it was related to enhanced activity of the right, but not the left, amygdala in men.[16] One study found evidence that on average, women tend to retain stronger memories for emotional events than men.[17]

Such an observation or division is useful for understanding many aspects of life and society that are un-ware of the effects of emotion on our ability to reason.  Much like a Facebook user that starts off the sharing of a “meme” with, “This really pisses me off…”, when it is quite clear that such content can be easily debunked with as many “clicks” as it took to post it in the first place.

The right amygdala is also linked with taking action as well as being linked to negative emotions,[18] which may help explain why males tend to respond to emotionally stressful stimuli physically. The left amygdala allows for the recall of details, but it also results in more thought rather than action in response to emotionally stressful stimuli, which may explain the absence of physical response in women.

Similar issues might take place in a heated conversation, debate, rallies, or protests, in which one side or all sides of a discussion are not at all functioning from a basis of logic.  Quite observable to the outsider but never to those caught up in emotion. This would be why many “successful” politicians rely on stoking of the emotions or “amygdala” when trying to lead the masses (herd the sheep!). Many “scams” often play on this individual (but social) weakness, in which the scam starts out with either a “too good to be true offer”, or a scary introduction.  Many email scams play out just like this.  Obviously sexual references would be helpful (not for the target) in this regard. We also often see this exploit used in marketing and ad campaigns.

Buddhist monks who do compassion meditation have been shown to modulate their amygdala, along with their temporoparietal junction and insula, during their practice.[32] In an fMRI study, more intensive insula activity was found in expert meditators than in novices.[33] Increased activity in the amygdala following compassion-oriented meditation may contribute to social connectedness.[34]

Its probably then mastery of this aspect of the brain/mind that will ultimately coincide with a different kind of society that tends towards peace rather than conflict. How might one develop such emotional control or “emotional intelligence“?

Amygdala volume correlates positively with both the size (the number of contacts a person has) and the complexity (the number of different groups to which a person belongs) of social networks.[55][56] Individuals with larger amygdalae had larger and more complex social networks. They were also better able to make accurate social judgments about other persons’ faces.[57] It is hypothesized that larger amygdalae allow for greater emotional intelligence, enabling greater societal integration and cooperation with others.[58]

If we are able to make the distinction between a logical portion of the brain and an emotional side, it should then be quite easy to bring the mind back into alignment with a simple logical observation.

There are cases of human patients with focal bilateral amygdala lesions, due to the rare genetic condition Urbach-Wiethe disease.[61][62] Such patients fail to exhibit fear-related behaviors, leading one, Patient S.M., to be dubbed the “woman with no fear”. This finding reinforces the conclusion that the amygdala “plays a pivotal role in triggering a state of fear”.[63]

“I am angry, I am not thinking logically, I must calm my emotions, and then I can use reason” would be one such “logical observation”.  In other words by becoming “choicelessly aware” of our emotional state, we bring about the logical framework needed to “calm” the amydala.  By thinking logically our emotions subside.

The clusters of the amygdala are activated when an individual expresses feelings of fear or aggression. This occurs because the amygdala is the primary structure of the brain responsible for flight or fight response. Anxiety and panic attacks can occur when the amygdala senses environmental stressors that stimulate fight or flight response.

Obviously this requires practice, and this type of “technique” might work better if it is further tailored by the individual, but clearly the realization of the “illogical nature” of the emotional state of mind, can go along way in securing logical states of mind in society.

Feelings of anxiety start with a catalyst – an environmental stimulus that provokes stress. This can include various smells, sights, and internal feelings that result in anxiety. The amygdala reacts to this stimuli by preparing to either stand and fight or to turn and run. This response is triggered by the release of adrenaline into the bloodstream. Consequently, blood sugar rises, becoming immediately available to the muscles for quick energy. Shaking may occur in an attempt to return blood to the rest of the body. A better understanding of the amygdala and its various functions may lead to a new way of treating clinical anxiety. [69]
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