Amygdala

Amygdala

Some Science, A Little on Triggers and Coping, and My Thoughts and Takeaways from this THD Story

The Science:

The amygdala is a collection of cells (called nuclei) that are located in the temporal lobe of the brain. There are two amygdalae, one in each hemisphere. The term amygdala means “almond”, referring to the almond-like shape of the most prominent nuclei.

The amygdala is part of the limbic system (a group of structures linked to the processing of emotions). The amygdala plays a role in various emotional behaviors, fear conditioning, emotional memory formation, and social recognition.

Many different sensory inputs, from both external and internal stimuli, are combined in the amygdala. Every sensory modality has input. The amygdala interprets theses and when it perceives danger, it instantly sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus. This area of the brain functions like a command center, communicating with the rest of the body through the nervous system triggering an automatic response. All of these changes happen so quickly that people aren't aware of them. In fact, the wiring is so efficient that the amygdala and hypothalamus start this cascade even before the brain's visual centers have had a chance to fully process what is happening.

This pathway is important because it is where memory and emotions are combined and thus a link to learned responses. It is also where we get our “gut reactions”.

Triggers and Coping:

During story building at Destiny Dance Center, we talked about how once the amygdala is activated it causes you be emotionally charged. We shared the unique triggers that we each experience and how we typically respond to these stimuli.

We spent time learning and practicing breathing techniques used to calm the amygdala. My personal favorite was the box breathing. This technique was simple to achieve and picturing the box or square helped focus my thoughts onto the breathing. Thus calming my nervous system, bringing my heart rate to normal, and relaxing the body.

Box Breathing Technique:

  • Inhale for four counts through your nose. Picture the left side of the box being drawn up like your breath.

  • Hold at the top of the breath for four counts. Picture the top of the box being drawn from left to right.

  • Gently exhale through your mouth for four counts. Picture the right side of the box being drawn down.

  • At the bottom of your breath, hold for 4 seconds. Picture the bottom of the box being drawn from right to left, completing the square.

My Thoughts and Amygdala Takeaways:

  • The brain is incredibly remarkable and there is so much that we are not actively aware of happening in our subconscious.

  • Understanding what is happening in the brain and some techniques to respond makes these subconscious processes less unknown.

  • By identifying your triggers, you can anticipate the automatic response initiated in the brain and make conscious decisions to modify your response.

Check out the video story ‘amygdala’ on our YouTube channel!


Use our JOURNAL PROMPTS to help you connect to our story. Watch the story behind this video to hear more about the process of creating this video. We hope that this video encourages you!