Aug 23, 2010

Word of the Week: Amygdala

Summary: Today's word is another medical term that goes along with the brain challenge we're presently studying—depression.

In the last post, we began looking at depression—one of the brain challenges that can adversely affect communication. We also learned a little about the different parts of the brain that are involved in the creation of depression, such as those chemicals and neurons that are central to brain function.

Currently, there is some controversy about an area (or areas) of the brain known as the
amygdala. According to Scholarpedia, many scientists now believe that the amygdala is not its own brain 'structure' at all, but is a part of other structures within the brain that work together to perform certain functions. Originally, however, it was thought to be made up of a couple of almond-shaped nuclei (as shown, below left, in a bird's eye view of the brain), responsible for sensory input—including that input of arousal and fear and other emotions. Hence, the amygdala has its roots in the creation of depression in the brain. (The second image, below right, indicates where the amygdala is located in the brain.)

But before I show you the brain images, let's look together at the word itself:

Amygdala (
UH - MIG - duh - luh) - According to, it's "one of the four basal ganglia in each cerebral hemisphere that is part of the limbic system, and consists of an almond-shaped mass of gray matter in the anterior extremity of the temporal lobe—called also amygdaloid nucleus." The word originated in around 1845 from the Greek amygdale for almond. Pluralized, as it is sometimes now written (thanks to a better understanding of its multiple parts), the word is spelled amygdalae.

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