The Thinking Amygdala


A recurring theme in quite a few of our neuromarketing posts is the apparent contest between the amygdala, a brain structure long thought to be the seat of emotions in the brain, and other brain structures thought to be responsible for higher cognitive functions like reasoning and problem solving. Now, neuroscientists at Yale University have demonstrated that the amygdala plays a role in working memory, a function which plays a key role in higher cognitive functions. Jeremy Gray, senior author of the study and assistant professor of psychology, states in a press release:

?Our findings are surprising because they show that a brain structure widely thought to be involved primarily, or perhaps even exclusively, in emotion processing is also involved in higher cognition, even when there is no emotional content,? Gray said. ?In fact, because it seemed so counterintuitive, we thought it was really important to replicate the result, which we did.?

He and his team hypothesize that the amygdala may serve, among other purposes, a general vigilance function aimed at preparing people to better cope with challenging situations and also the ability to sort information according to its relevance to the task at hand.

These are indeed interesting findings, but they don’t lessen the key role the amygdala plays in emotion-driven behavior. And, from a neuromarketing and neuroeconomics viewpoint, this research doesn’t alter the fundamental concept that the decision processes in the brain work at various levels, and that the amygdala plays a key role in those processes by bringing emotional values into them.

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