Harun Yahya

The Region that Manages the Emotional Responses: “AMYGDALA”


Our Almighty Lord created the human soul in various ways. Every person has different tastes, different social relationships. Allah, the sole owner of knowledge, created a special region ‘amygdala’ in the brain, as a means to manage the emotions the human soul feels.

The ‘amygdala’ region in our brains is responsible for the feelings of fear, safety and building social relationships. It is an almond shaped nuclei underneath the limbic circuit on the brain stem and consists of interlinked structures. It has two lobes; right and left. This region helps us catch the sensory signals around us and help determine how to react to what and when.

The Amygdala in our Brain is the Source of Emotional Responses

Our Almighty Lord created us in such a way that 80% of the information our brains get from the outside world comes through the eyes. The lens focuses the image on the retina, and after it is converted to electric impulses, it is sent to the brain through optic nerves in a split second, which is one thousandth of a second to be exact. The impulses coming from both eyes carry data as to the features of the object one looks at. The brain then joins together the two impulses from two eyes to make a single image. It determines the shape, color and distance of the object. In other words, it is not the eye that sees the objects but the brain itself. The electric impulses sent by the eyes go to the primary visual cortex at the back of the brain. This center is 2.5 mm thick and a couple of centimeters wide. It has six layers of neurons which is around one hundred million neurons (nerve cells).  The impulses first go to the fourth layer and after they are analyzed there, they are sent to other layers. In this center, each neuron receives impulses from  thousands of neurons and sends back impulses to  thousands of other neurons.

The retina sends the electric impulses to the thalamus region of our brain, while the brain determines the reaction to be given the image. If the reaction is an emotional one, the amgydala, the source of the emotion repertoire, will be consulted. If the data coming from the retina has a high potential (shocking situations), then some of the impulses sent to the thalamus will be channeled directly to the amygdala and this triggers an emotional response.  The visual cortex  no longer has any opportunity to figure out what’s going on and the only thing the cortex can do after that is build the reactions dictated by the amygdala.

Man, with the soul he possesses, enjoys feelings like honor, love, respect, friendship and honesty. Just like a cell on the tip of our finger cannot have any feelings such as happiness or grief, the neurons in the brain do not have such metaphysical talents either. This is an obvious truth anyone could easily see even without any scientific evidence. Our Almighty Lord said the following about the soul in a Qur'anic verse:  

“They will ask you about the Soul. Say: ‘The Soul is my Lord’s concern. You have only been given a little knowledge.’.” (Al-Isra’, 85)

Can the source of individual behavior be the amgydala region in the brain? Scientific research shows that the amygdala region in the brain is responsible for individual behavior. When we are exposed to a danger, the brain is bombarded with questions like, “Is this something I hate? Will it hurt me? Is it something I’m scared of?’ and if the answer is yes, the amygdala reacts in the form of an alarm which alerts the rest of the brain that there is a crisis. The amgydala has a rich communication network with the rest of the brain. In emergencies, it controls and guides a big part of the brain. The elements in the limbic system are the experts of the learning and remembering processes, while the amygdala is the expert of emotional states.

It is a known fact that our emotional responses are managed by the amygdala, but its functions are yet to be fully discovered.  Scientists are still trying to find answers to the following questions:

- How does the brain differentiate between emotional situations and know that it needs to send those impulses to the amgydala?

- Although the amygdala is mostly the same in all human beings, why do people differ in the risks they take, in the things they fear or in terms of their social preferences?

The scientists think that these differences have got to with a gene called “Neurod2”.  Experiments with guinea pigs showed that when the presence of this gene in the amygdala region  is reduced, the subjects experienced reduced feelings of fear and started taking bigger risks.  Humans also have this gene, but there are still some questions that need to be answered. 

Could the genes be the ones deciding if we will take risks or not, or how many friends we will have or the hobbies we enjoy? In other words, could it be that a small lump of flesh in our brains determines our character and emotional choices? Surely, the answer is no.

Then what really determines our emotions?

What would happen if we didn’t have an Amygdala?

A young person who had his amygdala removed saw  a big change in his life because he is almost now emotionally blind.

Previously, he was an extroverted person, a very social type that had many friends;  now he is indifferent to his friends and  doesn’t even recognize his own parents and chooses to live alone.

All his emotions were replaced by silence and indifference.

The source of our Individual Behavior is not the Amygdala, but the Soul

Our senses are built through electric impulses. Then is it the brain and the amygdala  that interprets all these impulses and turns them into a friend, a beautiful flower, a breathtaking scenery, our parents, or kids playing in the street? 

Technically, it is true that the impulses are interpreted in the brain.  Materialists claim that we are nothing but the neurons in a brain and that the world we live in is the result of the interaction of the neurons.  They claim that the entity that can think, laugh, be happy, recognize others, is nothing more than a bundle of neurons, in the words of the materialist, evolutionist physicist Francis Crick, who discovered DNA. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/reith2003/lecture1.shtml) It’s not important for a materialist how a person thinks and how he makes something out of perceptions. Finding answers to those questions is not important for the materialists, because they have no explanation for them. For example, they want to think of everything in terms of materialistic concepts. However, that’s a lie to keep people away from faith in Allah.  It’s not the brain that creates the consciousness, it is the soul.  The thing that says ‘I see the image inside the brain, or I hear the sounds inside the brain’ is the soul that Allah gives us. The materialist state of mind, however, does not want this truth to come out. This is the main reason behind the lie of the materialists: ‘The mystery of consciousness cannot be solved’. The existence of the soul, the fact that Allah gives the soul to humans, destroys their materialistic views and lies. No matter how much they try to avoid the subject by using the word ‘inexplicable’, it is an open and clear truth, that the reality of man -  in other words, the thing that can say ‘I am me’ -  is the soul. Allah says in the Qur'an that He first created the body of man and then ‘breathed His Soul into him’.

When your Lord said to the angels, ‘I am creating a human being out of dried clay formed from fetid black mud. When I have formed him and breathed My Spirit into him, fall down in prostration in front of him!’” (Surat-Al-Hijr, 28 - 29)

One of the causes of autism is that there are less nerve cells in the amygdala

The almond-shaped amygdala in the depths of the brain is an area that helps us understand other people’s feelings. The latest research suggests that this region plays an important role in the feelings of fear prevalent in autism. However,  researchers also think that this region is connected to various mental states.

For example,  autistic people tend to shy away from social relationships and fail to understand others’ feelings.  Research has  shown  that  people suffering from autism had less nerve cells in their amygdala than normal people have. However, it is surely not possible that a structure made up of fat, water and protein builds the consciousness of a person, and makes him a thinking, loving, reacting, fearing, rejoicing being. It is only the soul that can see without an eye, that can hear without an ear, that can think without a brain.


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