Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The amygdala and fear are not the same thing

Date:
January 28, 2012
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
In a 2007 episode of the television show Boston Legal, a character claimed to have figured out that a cop was racist because his amygdala activated – displaying fear, when they showed him pictures of black people.

In a 2007 episode of the television show Boston Legal, a character claimed to have figured out that a cop was racist because his amygdala activated -- displaying fear, when they showed him pictures of black people. This link between the amygdala and fear -- especially a fear of others unlike us, has gone too far, not only in pop culture, but also in psychological science, say the authors of a new paper which will be published in the February issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Indeed, many experiments have found that the amygdala is active when people are afraid. But it also activates at other times, for example in response to pleasant photographs and happy faces.

The misconception came from how scientists first approached studying the brain. A lot of people came to the amygdala from the study of fear, says Wil Cunningham of Ohio State University, who co wrote the new paper with Tobias Brosch of New York University. "It's a great emotion to study because it's very important, evolutionarily, and we know a lot about fear in animals," Cunningham says. Almost every study of fear finds that the amygdala is active. But that doesn't mean every spark of activity in the amygdala means the person is afraid.

Instead, the amygdala seems to be doing something more subtle: processing events that are related to what a person cares about at the moment. So if you're in a scary situation or have an anxious personality, the amygdala might be activated by a frightening image. But hungry people have increased amygdala activity in response to pictures of food and people who are very empathetic have an amygdala response to seeing other people.

"When we're studying emotion, people want to find specific brain parts that are associated with different emotions," Cunningham says. Especially in the early days of neuroscience, scientists hoped that soon it would be possible to use MRI and other brain-imaging techniques "to get under the hood and find out what people are really thinking." A lot of the time, people really don't know, or won't say, what they're thinking, and it would be nice to be able to look at a picture of their brain and know the answer. But the brain is too complicated for that. Cunningham also thinks many scientists have gotten too attached to a rigid definition of emotions -- anger, fear, sadness, happiness, and so on.

However you may feel, it seems that many different parts of the brain are involved. "Emotion is going to be distributed across the brain," Cunningham says.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "The amygdala and fear are not the same thing." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 January 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120127162755.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2012, January 28). The amygdala and fear are not the same thing. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120127162755.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "The amygdala and fear are not the same thing." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120127162755.htm (accessed August 22, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) According to a new study, elderly people might have trouble sleeping because of the loss of a certain group of neurons in the brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) A new study found couples who had at least 150 guests at their weddings were more likely to report being happy in their marriages. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

AP (Aug. 20, 2014) Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, charter schools are the new reality of public education in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana took over most of the city's public schools after the killer storm in 2005. (Aug. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins