A research news article reports, “The amygdala is known to be involved in social anxiety, posttraumatic stress, and obsessions and compulsions, and is now being linked with separation anxiety and general anxiety.” (From “Changes in Children’s Amygdala Seen After Anxiety Treatment,” Psychiatric News, May 6, 2005.)
The Amygdala Resource Center explains, “The Amygdala (amygdalae; plural) are a pair of small organs within the medial temporal lobes of the brain. The amygdala are part of the limbic system and their primary role is in the processing and memory of emotional reactions such as the anxiety reaction or ‘flight or fight’ response.
“In humans, the amygdala perform important roles in the formation and storage of memories associated with emotions including anxiety.
“Scientific research has found that in fear conditioning, which is what happens during the development of an anxiety disorder, the senses ‘feed back’ anxiety provoking signals to the Amygdala causing it to store memories of that anxious event.
“This then causes the amygdala to react differently when the event arises again. Over time, or during times of high anxiety (bereavement, divorce, work stress etc.) this ‘learning process’ can cause an anxiety disorder to form, sometimes without warning and very quickly.”
So can we unlearn those fear reactions?
The Amygdala Resource Center (source of this video) is published by a company related to the work of Charles Linden on the “elimination of anxiety disorders.”
The site says, “Linden’s theories surrounding behaviour modification to affect the inappropriate reaction in the amygdala have been used with great success in conditions such as Panic Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Phobias and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.”
A National Geographic News article about research on the amygdala ( Brain Region for Overcoming Fear, Anxiety Found ) notes that “Special cells in the brain allow animals to overcome fear and anxiety by recalling memories of similar situations when they were unafraid, according to new research.”
Neuroscientist Denis Paré of Rutgers University said, “The available data indicates that one does not unlearn fear but instead learns not to fear the threatening stimulus in particular contexts.”
Related article: Shyness is inherited , by Medical News Today. “A shy child may learn to be more outgoing, but a study suggests that shy temperament may be inherited and a brain marker for it does not change as the person ages… People who had been judged as toddlers to be inhibited showed in the scans that the amygdala structure in their brains responded much more actively to unexpected sights than did those subjects who had been judged as children to be more outgoing.”
Also see The Evolution of Anxiety , by Rich Presta – “Whenever you get input from your senses, it gets sent to two different parts of your brain for analysis. One is the frontal cortex… The other is called the amygdala (uh-MIG-duh- luh), which is actually two nerve centers that look like almonds and are located on either side of the thalamus.”