The amygdala: hooks, almonds, and terror
What is it? A complicated group of nerves situated in the side of the brain, involved in the processing and memory of emotional reactions. It’s about 2.5cm long and in a part called the temporal lobe, underneath a bulge in the brain called the uncus, which means hook. There is one on each side, so we have two amygdalae. How did it get its name? It’s said to be almond-shaped, and amygdala is the Greek word for almond. How might it make us terrified? It’s thought that the amygdala is involved with learning what situations are terrifying, and then remembering them, and activating the body to respond to that fear. For example, the amygdala plays a role in generating the facial expressions of fear and other fear responses, such as increased heartbeat. Experiments on animals with damaged amygdalae found they lose their normal caution when confronted with a scary situation.