Animal-sensitive cells in the human brain
A part of the human brain that's involved in emotion gets particularly excited at the sight of animals, a new study has shown. The brain structure in question is the amygdala: that almond-shaped, sub-cortical bundle of nuclei that used to be considered the brain's fear centre, but which is now known to be involved in many aspects of emotional learning.
Florian Mormann and his colleagues didn't use a brain scanner for their main study. Instead they inserted electrodes directly into the brains of 41 patients with epilepsy, who were undergoing neurosurgery as part of their treatment. This allowed the researchers to present the patients with different pictures and to record the resulting activity of nearly 1,500 individual brain cells, located in the amygdala, hippocampus, and entorhinal cortex (all regions are found in the medial temporal lobe; the latter two are involved in memory).
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