If a researcher's summary of an amygdala scan can fit on a bumper sticker, it’s probably oversimplified. That's the message in an article today from The Atlantic, which discusses how imaging studies don't always provide the whole picture of what's happening in the brain.
William A. Cunningham, PhD, a cognitive researcher at Ohio State University, co-authored an article in Current Directions in Psychological Science that reviewed published literature on the amygdala and found that the region (known for its involvement in fear) "plays a much broader role in the brain's functioning than merely responding to fear." As writer Neil Wagner asserts, the work matters because:
This is just one example of a deeper issue. People studying the brain want to find brain regions that are responsible for specific emotions. Many imaging studies, particularly fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) studies, appear to show just that, finding increased or decreased activity of a brain region when people are feeling a particular emotion. But the brain isn't wired so simply, so the conclusions that can be drawn from such findings are not as cut and dry as we might like to think.
Most brain functions require extensive coordination between several different regions of the brain networking. Emotions are no exception to this rule and seem to be distributed over the entire brain. Whatever emotion you may be feeling, it's likely that many different parts of the brain are involved. To portray a single area of the brain as the locus of any one emotion is a vast oversimplification.