Brain Science for Beginners: A Note from the Amygdala

18/01/2013 20:11


A note from the amygdala is the first in the Peanut Society of Lucubrators' series of brief and reflective Neuroscience-related articles. The theme of this note is: 'Who were Klüver and Bucy?' It's a little-known brain science lesson in everyday language.


The amygdala consists of a limbic nuclei cluster that's nestled within the brain's temporal lobe. The brain has two temporal lobes, with one amygdala in each. This pair of clusters are responsible for the brain's emotional memory function, something that's used twice over by self-motivated persons with artistic leanings. But, make no mistake, the amygdalae are important for everyone. Without them, daily life would rapidly change.



Paul Bucy was a brain surgeon and professor, and there's an established annual neuroscience award named after him. Heinrich Klüver was a neuropsychologist. Both men were lifetime practical scientists. Working together, they discovered how removing both temporal lobes, which contain the amygdalae, from monkeys produced behaviour that ceased to be limited by emotional memories – the monkeys displayed a placid fearlessness and became oversexed.


Klüver-Bucy syndrome in humans remains a rare condition, affecting a tiny percentage of the population, which is why its unusual manifestations are unlikely to be witnessed by most people in their lifetimes – that is, at the acute end, the oral exploration of objects combined with public hypersexual behaviour. The unknowing observer may assume such actions to be deliberately anti-social, provocative or bizarre; but no, these are among the physio-psychological symptoms of Klüver-Bucy syndrome.


Remember; you're only restricted from doing these things yourself by the work of your trusty amygdalae, those consistent little centres of emotional regulation. Tissue damage in both triggers the syndrome, as confirmed by the experiments of Passingham and Aggleton in the early 80s, in which targeted damage to the amygdalae using radio waves brought on Klüver-Bucy syndrome.


Keep a look out for more notes in the future...



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