Tuesday, October 19, 2004
Reality based Science Fiction
This morning’s New York Times and Washington Post report two frightening studies of the human brain and two parts of the limbic system, the amygdala and the hippocampus, in the moderation of our behavior.
Basically the amygdala regulates fear and our response to it by coupling sensory stimulus to an adaptive response such as fight or flight.
Thanks to the amagdala, we see a weapon-bearing thug approaching and from prior adaptation some of us know to attack or to run like hell.
As the amagdala controls fear, the hippocampus rules long term or declarative memory.
Declarative memory is humanity's version of a computer hard drive.
All of our experiences and conscious memory are stored through the intensity of blood flow through the hippocampus.
The New York Times report details the teaming of neuroscientists with corporate marketing departments to produce the new marketing science of Neuromarketing:
At issue is whether marketers can exploit advances in brain science to make more effective commercials…Machines are being used to shed light on brain mechanisms that play a central role in consumer behavior: circuits that underlie reward, decision making, motivation, emotions and the senses of self. Anything that is novel, researchers have found, grabs the brain's attention system by tapping directly into reward pathways…making it possible for companies to see more quickly and accurately what their customers want, like and feel that they need.
The Washington Post reports details current Phillip K. Dick-ian studies on memory modification:
The study is part of a promising but controversial field of research seeking to alter, or possibly erase, the impact of painful memories -- a concept dubbed "therapeutic forgetting"…drugs may be able to prevent traumatic memories from being stored with such disturbing intensity in the first place, or perhaps deaden effects of old memories.
The reports are absolutely fascinating and registered, through my throbbing amagdala and hippocampus, a searing memory of recent national trauma and our national reaction to it.
Images: September 11 Digital Archive, about.com