Fight or Flight
First discovered in the 1930s in the brain of a monkey, the amygdala is an almond-shaped set of neurons located within the medial temporal lobes of your noggin. Sometimes referred to as humans’ “fear factory” or your “emotional thermostat,” it works on a totally subconscious level— much the same way as breathing and blinking—and is primarily responsible for activating your fight-or-flight response (i.e., whether you put up your dukes or leg it).
Confronting the Demons
Learning to control your amygdala is easier said than done, but it can help you cope with and overcome your fears. Annoyingly, it only learns when it’s fully activated, so to rectify all your embarrassing hang-ups, you need to revisit them, then condition yourself to deal with them by forming new memories and associations. Meh.
You Need Fear
If you were to have your amygdala removed, fear would be a thing of the past. This might sound ace, but would prove troublesome if you decided to, say, cross a motorway. According to studies, an injured amygdala can also leave you constantly mega-hungry and sexually aroused which, as we know from being teenagers, gets old real quick.
Mind and Body
Your irrational fears are mostly due to your amygdala, since it jumps into action before your more rational brain weighs in. It has the ability to interpret sensory stimuli in the world and translate them into physical reactions, whether that’s sweating profusely during a presentation, hiding pathetically behind a cushion during a slasher film or just screaming your head off when you see a hedgehog/toad/spider/dead mouse/ex girlfriend.