Animals and the amygdala


28 Responses to “Animals and the amygdala”

  1. mtdna says:

    Screw the science – I want to visit that Animal Kingdom place!!

    What is it? We can only guess. A pet store? A strip club? Some kind of crazy restaurant? We may never know.

    • Marktech says:

      It’s a pet store in Chicago.  On Streetview you can see it’s right next to Kurowski’s Sausage Shop, which might come in handy in any number of ways.

    • It was a pet store here in Chicago, they closed down a few years back. The building is gone now and is a parking lot. 

      • mtdna says:

        Wow! Now THAT was a pet store!

        FTA (No Joke): The [store's] regular house pets were joined by monkeys, tigers, a llama, exotic birds and even a small elephant called Little Audrey. [Owner] Bernie Hoffmann became famous for bringing Little Audrey and other animals on “Super Circus,” which aired in the 1950s.

      • . says:

        Yep, it’s the parking lot for Kurowskis. The sausage hasn’t been the same since Animal Kingdom closed. ;)

    • lknope says:

      Notice how the dog is running away from the Animal Kingdom on that sign.  The mystery deepens.

      Nice, Sean Rafferty gets his comment in right before me, leaving me look the fool.

  2. TooGoodToCheck says:

    so, does this explain my addiction to ?

  3. Difference Engineer says:

    “Studies in macaque”, always enlightening.

  4. billstewart says:


    Or, as my wife says about almost all talks on evolutionary psychology, “They’re going to find some way to blame this on tigers again.”  (Usually she’s correct, though sometimes they blame lions or snakes as the animal hiding in the bushes that’s going to jump out and kill you if you didn’t see it, leaving the over-twitchy apes that imagine tigers when they’re not actually around alive to be our ancestors.)

  5. If they can find the LOLcat neuron, please hook mine up to a button so that I can spend the rest of my life giggling to myself about cats.

  6. Guest says:

    Here is a data point. I was having an emotional roller coaster of a week – family fueding, money issues, and general demotivation. Some racing thoughts and even a rare panic attack. Then I went to my local Ag Fair over the weekend and spent about 20 minutes hanging out with a cow, and suddenly, quite suddenly, almost with a whooshing noise accompanying it, I had some proper perspective which I had been lacking as my week degraded. It was remarkable, and cathartic.

    • KatoKitty says:

      It’s remarkable the calming effect that animals can have on human beings. I get the same from my two cats. When I’ve had a really rough day or am struggling with Depression, just being around them calms me down and lifts my mood.

      I love coming home to find them waiting at the door, doing that little paw-stomping dance of happiness that cats do sometimes. That never fails to make me smile.

  7. Paul says:

    Thanks to Batman, I’ll always know what the amygdala is. 

  8. hypnosifl says:

    Another study kind of along the same lines: Category-Specific Attention for Animals Reflects Ancestral Priorities, Not Expertise

    It’s also interesting that most of the earliest prehistoric art focused on animals rather than humans (aside from the ones focused on the female body), from cave paintings to the shrine at Gobekli Tepe which may have been where humans first settled down and began doing agriculture 11,000 years ago…

  9. piminnowcheez says:

    There are precedents in non-primate animal studies, too (not that primate people ever read those, *sniff*).  I forget the specifics, but something on the order of rat amygdala neurons firing like crazy for snake pictures.

    This result is interesting but not really surprising.  The amygdala is commonly thought to be all about fear/emotion, but it’s really more like a basic attention and behavior organization module for creatures whose brains evolved before the innovation of frontal cortex and other thinky bits.  Any stimulus likely to activate basic prey or predator-evasion behaviors will show up in the amygdala before it’s processed by any cortical neurons that aren’t doing primary sensory work.

  10. Cicada Mania says:

    I finally know which part of my brain loves cats, and wants to put bows on them… I can’t stop thinking about cats.

  11. Cicada Mania says:

    But seriously, now I’m wondering if the Toxoplasma gondii works its magic by doing something to the amygdala. The magic it does is make rats and mice less fearful of cats. It has effects on humans as well.

  12. mellowknees says:

    Yes, but is it the thing responsible for why I clap loudly at wild animals when I want them to get away from me?  I was just talking with a friend this afternoon about how I remember seeing an opossum stick its head out from under our house when I was a kid.  I was about 10 feet away, laying on the grass, and did not want it anywhere near me, so I sat up and clapped at it.  We got to talking about why the human response to animals that you want to get away from you is to clap at them…that seems like an odd instinctual response, doesn’t it?

    Now, if only I could train myself to say “Bravo!” as I do it…

  13. Singularité says:

    So does this explain capitalism addiction to sadism ?

  14. I understand food animals but cats, big cats, have been our number one predator for hominids in our evolution – so why the hell do we think they are so beautiful?   I mean I am entranced by them, visiting a sanctuary the cougars WANTED my two year old and I could hear their excited uttering, they kept their eyes on him, and yet this dangerous animal is gorgeous, not repellent at all.   Weird combo of knowing the danger to my child and yet being able to observe the beauty, why is that (is it thrill seeking through visual stimuli)?   We don’t do the same thing (most of us don’t) with snakes and bears or wolves…

  15. pbrpunx14 says:

    sweet. this now helps me avoid the (suicidaly docile) animal most likely to kill me in my daily life: deer. 

    if i go to the zoo and see a giant/dangerous predator, i’m thinking “that’s cool that i get to see this beast up close (also, it’s kind of sad that it’s in captivity, but is it’s life worse than in nature where other predators or lack of resources might… fuck, i’ve ruined the zoo again…)”

    when i’m driving almost 80 miles an hour down the rural highway on my way to work and i see a deer, i’m slamming on my brakes, my heart is pumping, and i’m thinking “oh shit, that stupid fucker is gonna dart in front of my car because it’s startled, then it’s gonna freeze in front of me and we’re both gonna die.”

  16. cdh1971 says:

    Ah…this explains my reaction to Tea Bag… Partiers.

  17. patelanjali says:

    Thus, early man may have developed a system to speed our reaction times to such an important category as the landscape was visually scanned for information.

  18. betatron says:

    I have very sad news… The Animal Kingdom is no more.  It’s been torn down and replaced by a parking lot.  I have gone there many times for parrot treats after feasting at the Polish buffett just up the street,  Czerwone Jabluszko, aka The Red Apple.   

  19. kongjie says:

    Seems to me this is a good explanation for the visceral reactions some people have to insects, spiders, snakes, etc. I used to think the phobias were connected to the fact that these creatures are so different from primates. But what if we are hard-wired to have an aversion to, for example, snakes? This has fascinating implications for the Christian portrayal of the devil. There are many interesting aspects of Christianity that emerge from or are a reaction to paganism. But what if the creation of the Devil is directly and intimately tied to genetic survival mechanisms? Is this more or less what “The God Gene” is about? I’ll have to read that.

  20.  Cows are good people.

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