Archive for the 'brain' Category

Feb 22 2015

Sandra Bland’s Arrest = the clash of two human being’s implicit memory systems.

Implicit memory is a type of long term memory which has an unconscious influence on the way we think, feel and behave. In a stressful situation, our implicit memory systems kick in and we react in a “same pattern over and over way.” For Sandra, an educated woman sensitized to systemic brutality of African Americans, she was upset by what she experienced as a unnecessary police stop and the lack of courtesy and professionalism (already determined by authorities) of the policeman. For the policeman, I can only speculate, he experienced some type of victimization himself early in his life that caused him to react so harshly. The policeman clearly becomes emotionally hijacked, meaning he is adrenalized, his thinking slowed down, and he is reacting automatically (unconsciously) to his mistaken view Sandra is a threat to him. Maybe an earlier trauma, abuse by someone in authority, taunting by bullies, or some other victimization is related to his unprofessional treatment of Sandra.

For more information on implicit memory, watch this video.

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Nov 24 2010

Amygdala: How Our Brain Processes and Stores Emotional Memory

The amygdala is the part of our brain’s limbic system responsible for the processing and memory of emotional reactions and triggering the fight, fight, or freeze process for human beings.

In the image below, the amygdala (dark red color) can be seen as part of the limbic system, just below the thalamus (also dark red).

The amygdala has been called the “emotional sentinel” of the human brain because it is primarily responsible for helping us to know when it is safe and unsafe.

The amygdala receives signals from our senses which it quickly evaluates. If the signal is safe, all is good.  However, if the amygdala determines the signal to be a threat, it sends a message to the hypthalamus to produce dopamine, epinephrine and norepenephrine which provide the chemical fuel for us to fight, flee or freeze.

The studies related to the amygdala have demonstrated that damage to the amygdala or negative personal experiences can result in such things as an inability to determine safe or unsafe facial expressions, hyperarousal, exaggerated fear responses or absence of fear responses.

So, if you grew up in an abusive, dangerous household, it is likely your amygdala has processed and stored those memories in a way which may keep you hyperaroused and unsure about the intentions of your partner.

Any tension or conflict with your spouse may easily result in a yelling match leaving you both depleted and demoralized.

Biology mixes with personal history, with disastrous results for personal and intimate relationships.

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Nov 24 2010

The Neural Bases of Empathic Accuracy: An Article by Psychology Professors Kevin Oschner and Niall Bolger, graduate student Jamil Zaki, and Research Assistant Jochen Weber at Columbia University Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 2009

A Columbia University research project using functional MRI scanning has mapped the two brain systems responsible for empathic accuracy, the parietal and premotor cortex.These two brain systems help humans understand the intentions of simple gestures, interpret the meaning of those gestures and place them into context.

The researchers used a group of volunteers (objects) to talk about emotional events in their lives while being videotaped. Later, these volunteers watched themselves on video and evaluated whether they felt positively or negatively while talking about these live events.

Then, a second group of volunteers (perceivers) watched the same videotapes and were asked to evaluate the positive or negative experience of the initial volunteers as they described their life events while also hooked up to functional MRI scanning devices to measure which brain systems were activated.
When the perceivers were accurate about the emotional experience, the same brain systems, the parietal and premotor cortex were activated.

Interestingly, when the perceivers were wrong, a third brain system was activated that involves the control and management of one’s own feelings.

This suggested to the researchers that a persons attention to their own feelings may cause them to miss the gestures and other behaviors linked to the feelings of others.

Read the summary of the study here.

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