I found this interesting in how your brain figures out what is good, bad, positive or negative and helps us act accordingly.
It’s pretty heady stuff, but the part about helping with anxiety, addiction and other things has great potential.
For Introverts, a lot of it happens in the reward/pain zone, the Amygdala…you know, the fight or flight place.
Now let’s rewind. You’re on the vacation of a lifetime in Kenya, traversing the savanna on safari, with the tour guide pointing out elephants to your right and lions to your left. From the corner of your eye, you notice a rhino trailing the vehicle. Suddenly, it sprints toward you, and the tour guide is yelling to the driver to hit the gas. With your adrenaline spiking, you think, “This is how I am going to die.” Years later, when you walk into a florist’s shop, the sweet floral scent makes you shudder.
“Your brain is essentially associating the smell with positive or negative” feelings, said Hao Li, a postdoctoral researcher at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California. Those feelings aren’t just linked to the memory; they are part of it: The brain assigns an emotional “valence” to information as it encodes it, locking in experiences as good or bad memories.
And now we know how the brain does it. As Li and his team reported recently in Nature, the difference between memories that conjure up a smile and those that elicit a shudder is established by a small peptide molecule known as neurotensin. They found that as the brain judges new experiences in the moment, neurons adjust their release of neurotensin, and that shift sends the incoming information down different neural pathways to be encoded as either positive or negative memories.
To be able to question whether to approach or to avoid a stimulus or an object, you have to know whether the thing is good or bad.
Hao Li, Salk Institute for Biological Studies
The discovery suggests that in its creation of memories, the brain may be biased toward remembering things fearfully — an evolutionary quirk that may have helped to keep our ancestors cautious.
The findings “give us significant insights into how we deal with conflicting emotions,” said Tomás Ryan, a neuroscientist at Trinity College Dublin who was not involved in the study. It “has really challenged my own thinking in how far we can push a molecular understanding of brain circuitry.”