The Role Of The Amygdala In Human Functioning

1938 words - 8 pages

History
The term ‘amygdala’ was first used by Burdach (1819) and referred to a set of nuclei in the brain (Aggleton & Saunders, 2000). In 1939, researchers Klüver & Bucy inflicted bilateral lesions of the inferior temporal lobe of monkeys in a laboratory in an attempt to reduce aggression. These lesions affected the cortical areas, amygdala, and the hippocampus. Later this became known as Klüver-Bucy syndrome, and consisted of symptoms such as psychic blindness, hypermetamorphsis, oral tendencies, and changes in emotional and sexual behaviors. Lesions of the amygdala made monkeys fearless of e.g. humans or snakes, and affectively flat, tame. This research brought recognition to the notion ...view middle of the document...

The limbic system was first recognized due to Franz Josef Gall (LeDoux, J., 1996). Franz Joseph Gall developed the idea of “phrenology” that focused on the study of the different variations of bumps on the human skull to be related to differences in behavioral and emotional functioning. The limbic system’s main function in the brain is to control emotional behaviors and certain forms of memories that are infused with emotion (amygdala). The amygdala is a part of the brain that forms the tail end of the basal ganglia within the rostral temporal lobe and is located near the hippocampus (Lambert, K.G. & Kinsley, C .H., 2005). The amygdala, as defined by the text, is an almond-shaped structure that functions as a part of the limbic system involved in regulation of emotion and sexual urges (Lambert, K.G. & Kinsley, C .H., 2005). In addition, the amygdala is comprised of a dozen or more sub regions that are not all involved in fear conditioning (LeDoux, J., 1996).
Primary Involvement
The amygdala has been the subject of many researchers’ curiosity throughout the history of neurological science and neuropsychology. Multiple studies have been successful in identifying the role of the amygdala in the human brain and it’s primary involvement in human functioning. Dating back to 1939, researchers have discovered that the amygdala plays a significant role in emotional processing of stimuli and the regulation of human emotions. Throughout the years it has also been discovered that the amygdala plays a role in areas such as anxiety, conditioned and unconditioned fear response, associative learning, taste aversion, appetitive conditioning and drug addiction, memory storage, autism, and Alzheimer’s disease (Lambert, K.G. & Kinsley, C .H., 2005). Furthermore, it is important to note that the degree of amygdala’s participation in a learning situation depends on how much arousal the stimuli induces. However, the primary functions of the amygdala remain memory, decision-making, and emotional processing.
Other Brain Areas
Conditioned taste aversion has been known as the association between taste and malaise (Lamprecht & Dudai, 2000). This type of association is due to an innate predisposition for the formation of a connection between food and distress. Conditioned taste aversion is optimal when a particular taste is novice to the individual. In addition, conditioned taste aversion allows for an intermediate amount of time between taste and malaise unlike in the case of classical conditioning. As cited by Lamprecht and Dudai (2000) it has been established that the amygdala receives taste and malaise input into multiple nuclei (Norgren et al., 1989; Yomamoto et al., 1994; Bures et al., 1998). The amygdala also receives input on gastrointestinal distress. In this case, the information is transferred via the vagus nerve to the caudal region of the nucleus of the solitary tract and by the dorsal horn to the lateral parabrachial nucleus (Lamprecht & Dudai, 2000)....

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