Eating a slice of chocolate cake or spending time with a friend usually stimulates positive feelings, while getting in a car accident or anticipating a difficult exam is more likely to generate a fearful or anxious response.
An almond-shaped brain structure called the amygdala is believed to be responsible for assigning these emotional reactions. Neuroscientists from MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory have now identified two populations of neurons in the amygdala that process positive and negative emotions. These neurons then relay the information to other brain regions that initiate the appropriate behavioral response.
The study represents a significant step in understanding how the brain assigns emotions to different experiences, says senior study author Kay Tye, the Whitehead Career Development Assistant Professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. Original Article »