Essay: The Amygdala

Have you ever thought what happens when you make decisions? You might react emotionally, but the critical part of the brain that provides the necessary reaction is the Amygdala .The Amygdala is like a tool, to overcome your fear initially, and to think clearly with reason and logic. Even though the Amygdala is roughly the size of an almond, it can multitask with ease and also integrate with the other systems (Baxter,M.G.,Murray,A.E.(2002).The Amygdala and Reward.Nature Reviews.Neuroscience,Volume 3 ,563)
The Amygdala considers the risks, benefits and drawbacks along with the future life changes, while making the decision . Making a decision in the Amygdala is like planning a trip to a location via the highway ,where the location is the Amygdala, and the highway refers to the different paths taken to make the decision. Since while travelling via the highway, there are many different routes to get to the location, the route that takes the shortest time is only chosen. Therefore, the decision making process involves taking into considerations emotions without even thinking, as it is a very spontaneous, natural reaction you may experience(Gupta, R., Koscik, T. R., Bechara, A., & Tranel, D. (2011). The amygdala and decision-making. Neuropsychologia, 49(4), 760 ).
The question is to answer now is how does your Amygdala knows what is the right decision to make if it considers emotions as a guide. The answer is that it uses your intellect along with the emotions to come up with the quickest decision. So we can compare the Amygdala memory, and the environment to be a cycle as they all working together in a sequence, to make sure the reward in the end is the right choice . Then once your Amygdala is familiar with the environment ,making decisions is very easy .Therefore, usually in emotionally alarming situations ,our mental awareness of our surroundings is at its peak, which in turn allows us to be more alert and absorb more information using our intellect (Roozendaal, B., McEwen, B. S., & Chattarji, S. (2009). Stress, memory and the amygdala. Nature Reviews.Neuroscience, 10(6), 423).It is a very common scenario in our daily life, as stress can cause the Amgydala to take over . Which is probably the reason why, people remember life threatening events more clearly as their survival instincts are also activated . As you get older though, training your brain on how to remember information is tricky, as your reaction time decreases substantially, and your leaning capacity is reduced . This is the probably the reason why it is important to exercise your brain , as an active brain is more responsive and alert to the environment .Also, by exercising the brain, we are strengthening the link between amygdala and memory. The link between memory and amygdala can be thought of as a tree and its roots. The deeper the roots of a tree are, the more nutrients it can get. So, by improving our intellect, we are expanding our memory capacity .Also, the emotional aspect of decision making is what the Amygdala main function is ,which can vary from stress, fear to joy, happiness . Therefore ,the amygdala can be thought of as a camera that links emotions to visual representations of faces (Adolphs,R,Tranel,D,Damasio,H,Damasio ,A.R.(1995).Fear and The human amygdala .The Journal of Neuroscience.15(9).5879). This ability of the Amygdala to decode emotions from faces ,allows us to recognize a threat or a gesture, which immensely help in networking (Chang, S. C., & Platt, M. (2014). Amygdala: Eyes wide open. Current Biology, 24(20), R1000).Therefore, at the dawn of human civilization, it was our ability to use our eyes like a radar, and along with the neighbouring systems of the brain , led to reward driven pathways which have allowed us to adapt to any environment in the world (Chang et al,(2001), R1001).

To conclude even though you don’t know it , you are constantly scanning your surroundings, for any threat in the environment, which is probably the reason why amygdala plays many roles in the form of a highway, a tree, cycle and a camera to help us make sense of our environment to help us in timely decision making .

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