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"Drawing on the latest research from NYU’s Center for Neural Sciences, Joseph LeDoux, head of the LeDoux Lab at the Center and the author of The Synaptic Self and The Emotional Brain, looks at fear and anxiety as products of conscious experiences as well as of the brain’s non-conscious processes, suggesting that successful treatment calls for both new drugs and fresh methods of psychotherapy.
While I was fearing it came,
But came with less of the fear,
Because that fearing it so long,
Had almost made it dear.
LeDoux's band, The Amygdaloids, creates songs about about the mind, the brain, and mental disorders. "Fearing" is their song about anxiety that was inspired by Dickinson's poetry.
Fear is the most basic and primitive emotion
It occurs when we encounter danger
An animal can put off the good stuff eating, drinking sex for days
But responding to danger must be immediate
Or there will be no more eating, drinking or sex.
The fear response is the same humans and other mammals
Muscles tense, heart beats fast, hormones flow
These responses help keep us alive when threats arise.
Part 2: The neuroscience of fear
Evolution says, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”
Indeed, the brain mechanisms of fear are highly conserved
The amygdala is a key structure
It detects danger and produces hard wired protective responses
The amygdala also forms emotional memories
It uses these to predict harm in the future
Fear learning is rapid and persistent
While fear memories can be controlled but are hard to eliminate
The amygdala is hyperactive in many psychiatric conditions
Some of which can be treated with drugs
While others respond better to psychotherapy
We need better treatments for fear
LeDoux On the Amygdala and Unconscious Memories (from video below):
Can we think of the amygdala as the seat of what Freud called the unconscious?
"I think it's a distraction because... I mean, it's true in the sense that the hippocampus is necessary to have a conscious recollection of some past event, and the amygdala participates in unconscious memory. But we shouldn't really taint it with the Freudian concepts because that adds a lot of baggage.
The amygdala is an unconscious processor because it's just not connected with the conscious system. It's kind of like by default unconscious as opposed to being in the Freudian sense of unconscious something that was conscious, but was too anxiety-provoking and therefore shipped to the unconscious. The amygdala gets direct sensory information and it learns and stores information on its own, and that information that's stored then controls emotional responses. The connectivity is hardwired, so one way to think about it is that a rat will respond to a cat without any learning by freezing, raising its blood pressure and heart rate and respiration and releasing stress hormones."
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But there's a whole other side of the amygdala's role in memory, which is that when the amygdala is activated and all of those hormones and other things happened to get released, that provides information that feeds back to parts of the brain, like the hippocampus and allows them to store their memories in a much more efficient and strong way. So we know that emotional memories are stored more vividly than other kinds of memories. It used to be thought that they were more accurate, but in fact now we know that they are not more accurate, they're just more vivid and strong in the personal sense.
But they can be highly inaccurate. This is shown by studies of natural disasters and so forth, well not always so natural. But like the Space Challenger Shuttle... or the shuttle, Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, a lot of people witnessed that and they were studied almost immediately by psychologists who made notes of exactly what their responses, what they were experiencing at the time and then a year later, they were surveyed again and the responses were completely different from what they remembered originally and then several years later it completely changed again. So what we remember is not necessarily what we experienced originally. So the accuracy of those memories changes over time, but their strength in terms of your subjective feeling that it was a really powerful experience is there."
William James and Therapeutic
Application the Mystical Experience
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