Monday, June 29, 2015

Unconscious Consciousness

Deep in the brain sits an interesting organ called the corpus amygdaloideum. The amygdala  is an almond-shape set of neurons located in the brain's medial temporal lobe. Known to play a key role in the processing of emotions, the amygdala forms part of the limbic system. In humans and other animals, this subcortical brain structure is linked to both fear responses and pleasure.

This odd organ is believed to serve as a communications hub between the parts of the brain that process incoming sensory signals and the parts that interpret them. It can signal that a threat is present, and trigger a fear response or anxiety. 

What has been discovered about this part of the brain is that it has a dual input system. Both inputs run from the eyes, ears, and other sense organs to the thalamus. At that point the inputs diverge. One pathway leads directly to the amygdala while the other first passes through the cortex. Each input causes a unique behavior. The amygdala is specialized for reacting to stimuli and triggering a physiological response.

There is a distinct difference with conscious feelings of fear. These feelings are thought to arise from the second, slower pathway that travels from the sensory input first to the higher cortex and then to the amygdala. In the cortex the frightening stimulus is analyzed in detail, and a message is sent back down.

The initial signal, and its corresponding physiological behaviors, prepares the body for immediate reaction. This is part of the startle circuit. By having the body ready for action, the second circuit can then take a moment to study the signal to determine whether the threat is real or perceived. If real, then the body is already on the go, if perceived, than nothing has been lost. Maybe.

 But there are problems associated with the double wiring between the higher cortex and the amygdala. The neural connections from the cortex down are less well developed than are connections from the amygdala back up. Thus, the amygdala exerts a greater influence on the cortex than vice versa. Once an emotion has been turned on, it is difficult for the cortex to turn it off.

I wonder why that imbalance. Do humans not trust the cortex?

And this is fascinating......

The only sense with direct access to the amygdala is smell. I guess it's real. The smell of fear, that is. The smell of everything and it's emotional behavioral directives.

Are we destined to vacillate between terror and confidence? Is the enigmatic amygdala responsible for fear conditioning? The fact that the amydala generates hate and fear, as well as pleasure, tells me that it can turn on a dime.

People like to be united in common emotion, be it love or hate, or something else. Several years ago, hope was sold to the American people and they bought it enthusiastically. However, hope is a difficult product to warranty. The return of Neptune to  Pisces has reminded many people of their common delusions mixed with all the individual ones. 

My thinking leads me to the current Aries-Capricorn square as usual.

Uranus rules nerve circuitry, and that could be a clue to a fast track in Aries to the cerebral cortex and logic. Capricorn central control. As people remain confused, they entertain doubts about their choices. Being confused, lost, and alone are understandably uncomfortable. A dependable track to the cortex might be beneficial. Conscious decisions could be enjoyed.

Brain functioning aside, maybe one can work with the quirks. I'm sure the amygdala would love to run wild into the paranoid fantasies that Neptune adores, but perhaps one can use the strength of Aries coupled with the logic of Capricorn to influence matters. It looks as though as a whole, people could easily be wandering around lost in puzzling brain circuits as Pisces clouds the path ahead. A temporary blindness, so to speak. But from the blindness sometimes comes an alternate way through developed from intuition and feeling. A sort of cosmic braille.