Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue


On Taming Our Amygdala or Monkey Brain

posted by Beyond Blue

monkey laughing 2.jpg
In “The Emotional Brain,” Joseph LeDoux, a professor of neuroscience at New York University, explains the “fear system” in laboratory animals and humans. The almond-shaped clump of tissue called the amygdala can be a real troublemaker. Whenever you sense potential danger (26 voice-mails on your cell phone coming to life like the Nutcracker), the amygdala triggers an “oh, crap!” reaction, pumping adrenaline and other (not so great) hormones into your bloodstream.
A fraction of a second later, the higher, more educated, evolved, sophisticated (Harvard professor type) region of the brain gets the signal and takes on the case, digging for the truth, sometimes accusing the amygdala of being an over-reactive alarmist. Unfortunately we experience the fear more vividly than we do the rational response, and make decisions based on the immature brat of an amygdala.
The trick is teaching the amygdala to chill out while you get the real story from the upper regions of the brain, where you’ll get a more thoughtful, considerate analysis.
In other words, try not to act like a monkey.

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NancyLL

posted January 25, 2011 at 9:49 am


I have a wild monkey brain. The phone or fax rings and my monkey brain goes wild. It’s as though I have PTSD with the phone/fax. I spent so many years with mother/father/brother/ex-husband – 2 of whom are now deceased, aggravating me (terrorizing me), that I still cannot take the phone. I can logically tell myself that there is nothing to fear, but that is crap according to my monkey brain. Just typing this makes my monkey brain rattle the cage it inhabits. I guess I’ll go my grave being a freaking mess.



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Elizabeth

posted January 25, 2011 at 10:08 am


Interesting you should mention the amygdala this morning, for last night my therapist explained all about how mine has been on high alert for several days now which is why I’ve been having a major set back with my anxiety.
So, my main goal the next few days is to get the amygdala to begin to calm down (and thus get my hormones etc. to chill out) by addressing the anxiety trigger (a work situation), and taking my “emergency” sleep meds to get back in my regular sleep pattern, exercising, and cutting down on caffeine.
I’ve already failed at cutting down caffeine today (I’ve had 2 cups of coffee) and am currently feeling guilty about it and worried that I drank to much.
Eh, well, such is life when you have monkey brains. I guess I have to just keep on trying to calm myself down.
Elizabeth-



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Michael

posted January 25, 2011 at 11:25 am


I’ve found that vigorous exercise calms down my amygdala. Don’t worry about the extra coffee, just get some exercise today Elizabeth.



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Kathy

posted January 25, 2011 at 1:25 pm


I kept scrolling looking for the rest of the article with the magic formula to get my ADHD-amygdala to calm down! Sigh … no magic formulas I suppose. I’m just so tired of the fear, panic, anxiety. And trying to get comfort from others who don’t understand – really, can’t even *comprehend* why such benign things could be such triggers – makes me feel like curling up in a ball in bed and shutting out the world. Ah, so dramatic :)
All that to say that while I’m still sitting in anxiety & fear this morning, I am so very, very, very grateful for you Therese, and for the others who post their stories. Reminds me I’m not alone on what feels like a very lonely (and scary) path.



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Myfanwy

posted January 25, 2011 at 9:24 pm


Good article.



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Lisa

posted January 26, 2011 at 10:16 am


My monkey brain is in high gear this morning and it feels good knowing I’m not the only one especially when I feel so alone.



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Tina

posted January 26, 2011 at 10:21 am


I found information that was helpful. Twenty yrs. ago research was begun on a condition called HSP — Highly Sensitive People. About 20% of the population qualifies for HSP. For me it explains why the monkey brain gets activated.
Dr. Elaine Aaron pioneered the research — visit her website at http://www.hsperson.com I found it very helpful. Lots of info and tips. Many more websites & forums that gave practical ways to cope, including possible environmental & nutritional changes that could be beneficial.
For me I realized that it is rarely just one “thing” that is the problem or answer. Good Luck to all. T



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Lisa

posted January 26, 2011 at 11:41 am


So THAT’S the part of my brain giving me so much grief lately. After 20 years of being medicated for depression/anxiety, I went off all my antidepressants in October after the Dr tried me on a new 3rd pill in Sept. to replace my Lexapro. 2 weeks of terrible side effects and I (brillianly) decided I was done with ALL antidepresants and stopped taking everything, all meds. BOY was that a mistake. By Christmas I thought my constant panic and anxiety was due to “the holidays” but this month it continues unabated. The knee-jerk extreme hyper vigilance I feel about every possible affront to me or my kids is driving me INSANE. I’m in constant fight-or-flight mode. I’m taking everything way too hard. The pills must somehow “suppress” or delay the amygdala overreating to everything. I am trying to slowly get back on the meds but taking the full dose kept me awake so I’m trying to come back slowly. I’m never going off them again. Down monkey brain DOWN! ;-)



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Marla

posted January 26, 2011 at 12:00 pm


Tina – thank you for information on highly sensitive people. It is good to read that highly sensitive is just a subcatagory of normal and not some “disorder” In a not to distant, wilder past, people that were highly sensitive would have had a better chance at survival noticing subtle changes and quiet sounds in their environment



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JBird

posted January 26, 2011 at 3:00 pm


Exactly how does one become “diagnosed” with HSP? Everything about HSP’s fits me to a tee. My therapist has never mentioned HSP before, and I’m wondering if it’s legit in the world of Psychiatry. I’d like to think it is. My amygdala works OVERTIME! :-)



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Dr. Lori Grifo

posted January 26, 2011 at 5:26 pm


Hi! A client of mine showed me this blog because it fits so well with what we are working on with him. I have just started using a process called AWAKEN Higher Brain Living to help my
clients calm down their lower, fear based brain and create more functionality and sustainability in the pre-frontal cortex. There may not be a trained facilitator near you but here is the website. Help is available! higherbrainlivng.com Click on the tab for centers to see where they are located.
Good luck everyone!



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Jamie

posted January 27, 2011 at 3:15 am


I already knew that it was the amygdala doing the damage. But that article was really short and sadly, I learned nothing to quell the panic disorder. *sigh* I just really wish there was a med that could put the brakes on the amygdala big time and just give me a “Eh, that’s fine, whatever.”, feeling; without the horrible side effects that anti’s have. Still waiting on help with that. I’ve been on meds, and taken myself off, and had to go back on, and it just really sucks.
Good luck to us all that feels like we have tried it all. =) ?



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TONIRA

posted January 30, 2011 at 12:49 am


I REALLY DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT THIS AMYGDALA IS ALL I KNOW IS THAT I HAVE FIBROMYALGIA,SPONDONYLONSIS,OSEOPENIA,AMONGST MANIC/DEPRESSION I TAKE 13 MEDS A DAY+A FENTANYL PAIN PATCH WHICH I HAVE TO CHANGE EVERY 2DAYS I TAKE SUVELLA&BUSPAR FOR MY DEPRESSION.HOWEVER,I HAVE HAD SEVERAL PHYSICTIC BREAK DOWNS&LASHED OUT AT MY BOYFRIEND FOR NO REASON. AT ALL AT 1ST WHEN I 1ST STARTED THEY HAD ME ON6NARCODICS,SO I WENT THROUGH A NARCODIC ROLLACOSTER PHYSICTIC BREAKE DOWN THATS WHEN I TOLD MY DRS.I REALLY NEED HELP.I’VE BEEN IN COUNCLING EVER SINCE,BUT,THERE’S TIMES WHEN I FEEL THAT MY COUNCLER DOESN’T HEAR ME.LIKE HE “SKAKES AROUND WHAT I NEED&TURNS IT AROUND INTO SOMETING ELSE” SOME DAY I DON’T FEEL LIKE MY DEPRESSION MEDS ARE WORKING AT ALL.I FIND MYSELF CRYING FOR NO REASON AT ALL OR WHEN I GET ANGRY ALL MY EMOTIONS ARE KEPT BOTTLED UP INSIDE TILL I BLOW UP.&IKNOW THATS NOT HEALTHY BUT,IF MY NUROLOGIST DON’T UP MY DEPRESSION MEDS FOR ME,&IF MY COUNCLER DON’T START LISTEN TO ME,&STOP PLAY THIS SKAKE AROUND THE WHAT REALLY WRONG WITH ME PROBLEM.THEN I’M BOUT TO GO POSTAL ON SOMEONE&IT WON’T BE PRETTY,I’M SURE THERE’S OTHERE’S OUT THERE LIKE ME THAT HAVE THE SAME OR SIMILAR PROBLEMS LIKE MINE.BUT I HOPE THERE’S HOPE MAYBE I’LL TELL MY COUNCLER ABOUT THIS AMYGDALA&SEE WHAT HE SAY THANK YOU



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Beth

posted January 31, 2011 at 3:46 am


Jamie et al., I was linked here through my Amygdala Retraining Technique support group. There *are* ways to use the conscious mind to retrain the amygdala. (There are many many ways, but I have chosen to use this program put together by someone who used it to cure the ailment similar to what I am suffering from, as opposed to spending years trying to figure out how to do it on my own.) The program we are using uses neuro-linguistic programming, meditation, visualization, and other methods to calm the amygdala over time. It was created by a man named Ashok Gupta. He has some videos on YouTube under the user name GuptaProgramme. He made the program for chronic fatigue syndrome sufferers, but it can be used for any problem that has an (hypothesized) overactive amygdala at its core. It is helping me with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple chemical sensitivities (many neurological symptoms, heart and lung problems + ~50 other symptoms), noise/light/electricity/vibrational/heat sensitivities, allergies, food intolerances, major depressive disorder, and severe generalized anxiety. With this and a less-toxic lifestyle, I am off of the 7 medications I used to take. I’ve been on and off psych meds for 15 yrs, and I honestly don’t think those days are over (have been off for 2 yrs). I hope this is helpful to someone. I don’t work for Gupta in any form… just hope to spread some hope, like others did for me.
Tonira… I think this could be especially helpful for you. Fibromyalgia is basically the same entity as chronic fatigue syndrome and multiple chemical sensitivity. But it’s also important to address nutrition and detoxification. xox



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Beth

posted January 31, 2011 at 3:48 am


EDIT: I meant to say I think my days of psych meds ARE over. :)



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Professor W.T.O'Connor

posted January 31, 2011 at 6:32 am


Why does the amygdala always get bad press? – no wonder it gets upset and throws a fit. For its small size the amygdala is very complex with connections to and from many other brain regions and plays a protective role primarily involved in protection, moving us away from potentially dangerous situations. So you’ve actually got a friend in your amygdala. In fact, recent findings reported in my blog ‘Inside the brain’ show that the size of your amygdala correlates with the size of your social network. As a social species a larger amygdala gives us more options to manage our complex social lives – helping us to get along while getting ahead.



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Holly

posted January 31, 2011 at 5:52 pm


I have been researching the brain and it’s activities for some years now, as a lay-person- no medical training. There is a saying “That you know your own body better than anyone else” including drs. I was put on prozac for 2 yrs for mild PMS, I didn’t cry anymore,cuz all I did was eat and sleep. Turns out getting off sugar and sugar substitutes fixed me without all the negative side effects. Nutrition, meaning diet AND exercise, can change your world. If you were to stop eating any type of processed foods(frozen,canned,boxed,fast,meats) and start eating fresh healthy no additives (honey or stevia instead of sugar)for just one month you would be AMAZED at how much less pain you feel in your body and in your brain. Doctors(physical/psych) don’t want you to really get better because they would be out of a job. You’ve tried everything else what do you have to lose?



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