Monday, March 25, 2013

Everyone dances to the Amygdala Hijack: Rationalizing Animal #3

Humans react, then think. The reason? The limbic hijack or amygdala hijack. Our emotions are controlled by the brain's limbic system and more specifically, by the amygdala. The Amygdala hijack is
the term to describe emotional responses from people which are immediate and overwhelming, and out of measure with the actual stimulus because it has triggered a much more significant emotional threat.

...'not all limbic hijackings are distressing. When a joke strikes someone as so uproarious that their laughter is almost explosive, that, too, is a limbic response. It is at work also in moments of intense joy'.
The hijack could also be called the Hulk Effect: the angrier we get, the stupider we get. From Neuroscience Fundamentals - The limbic System:
Amygdala hijack is known to be an evolutionary response to the environment where there is no time for rational thinking. Actions must be done to protect yourself from harm immediately resulting in “unthinkingly" or impulsive behaviours. Hadley (2010) proposed that up to 75% of the conscious reasoning is lost during the hijack. This conclusion was backed up by another paper by Peters (2011) who claimed that the energy sent to prefrontal cortex is greatly reduced during the hijack. Moreover, only 5% of the brain is devoted to the “present” situation whereas the rest is occupied with the past or future hassles.
The hijack especially affects teenagers. From The Adolescent Brain and Decision Making Skills:
In 2008, B. J. Casey’s research team at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and California Institute of Technology published an article suggesting that the limbic system is the major contributor of poor judgment and impulsivity in the teen brain. The team proposed that although the frontal lobe of the cortex can weigh options to make a decision with a safe outcome, a teen’s “on guard” limbic system often wins out over the reasoning of the prefrontal cortex resulting in more high risking taking decisions. The theory is that the impulsive ever vigilant limbic system keeps a teen’s brain focused on primal tasks such as finding a mate, elevating one’s status with peers and seeking pleasure activities such as eating, sex and novelty.
But adults shouldn't get smug. When we feel a threat of any sort—including threats to our belief systems—we all dance the to the Limbic Hijack.