Amygdala hijack

The Brain's Design Emerges As a Key to Emotions and it can be hijacked.

The term “amygdala hijack” was first used by Daniel Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. It describes the situation that arises when sensory information triggers a “fight-or-flight” response from the amygdala before the neocortex can respond. For example, in the case of a visual stimulus that contains cues that might be frightening, the information is processed as follows:

“From the thalamus, a part of the stimulus goes directly to the amygdala while another part is sent to the neocortex or ‘thinking brain’. If the amygdala perceives a match to the stimulus, i.e., if the record of experiences in the hippocampus tells the amygdala that it is a fight, flight, or freeze situation, then the amygdala triggers the HPA (hypothalmic-pituitary-adrenal) axis and hijacks the rational brain. This emotional brain activity processes information milliseconds earlier than the rational brain, so in case of a match, the amygdala acts before any possible direction from the neocortex can be received. If, however, the amygdala does not find any match to the stimulus received with its recorded threatening situations, then it acts according to the directions received from the neo-cortex. When the amygdala perceives a threat, it can lead that person to react irrationally and destructively”.

And apparently, it is possible to train the neocortex, the rational mind, to override or even prevent amygdala hijacks. In other words, it is possible to identify potential triggers of amygdala hijacks and then learn how to overcome them.