Researchers now claim that the fight or flight centre of the brain should not to be the focus for anxiety and that the amygdala is just a small reaction in a bigger process. For decades doctors had been prescribing solutions for anxiety that focused on the reactionary amygdala more than any other region of the brain. This short sightedness might have missed the bigger picture of anxiety, claims Paul Whalen, and he is on a mission to uncover the new processes that will need to be adjusted for sufferers of anxiety with his new research.
Neuroscientist Paul Whalen is now placing his attention on anxiety disorder and the hypervigilence of the sufferer. He believes research through happiness will lead to a better understanding of the brain’s reaction to established fears.
“PSYCHOLOGISTS WHO WANTED TO STUDY EMOTION HAD TO PICK ONE, AND FEAR IS THE EASIEST TO STUDY IN A HUMAN OR ANIMAL. IT’S DIFFICULT TO KNOW HOW TO MAKE A RABBIT HAPPY. IT’S EASIER TO KNOW HOW TO MAKE ORGANISMS AFRAID.”
Paul interviewed by Maggie Koerth-Baker goes on to explain the connection between th prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. “Nobody believes that fear is the amygdala’s sole function and we know it can’t teach you everything you need to know about being afraid. But we do know it’s an older area of the brain and it’s reactive. It’s picked up on these things like facial expressions and it tells the brain, “the last time we saw that facial expression something bad happened.” It sends that signal to the prefrontal cortex, where decisions get made. The amygdala produces an alarm reaction and the prefrontal cortex is in charge of cancelling or corroborating the alarm.”
For more information on this interview check out Maggie’s post on BoingBoing. We look forward to the discoveries that Paul and his research team uncover in their conquests to mitigate hypervigilence.