Studies concerning the amygdala's role in anxiety
are perfectly valid, but if one were to confine one's understanding of the amygdala only to these results, a misunderstanding
would appear. The amygdala has hemispheric specializations - the left supports positive emotions, though the right
The theories I work with primarily are those developed
within the Laurentian
University Behavioral Neurosciences Program, directed Dr. Michael A. Persinger.
One of the most important theories, and one which
several published studies (as well as many Shakti reports) corroborate. It's called the "interhemispheric
intrusion hypothesis." Reference
In brief, it says that many spiritual experiences can be explained as examples of a dramatic spillover from a structure
on one side of the brain into the same structure on the other side. For example, intense activation of the amygdala
on the right (fear) should happen in a life-threatening situation. If the threat actually manifests, and the person
dies, they may begin an often-blissful experience that may be later be recalled as a near-death experience.( should
they be resuscitated later on) First, intense fear, then bliss. Jesus faced Satan the desert. The Buddha confronted the Demons of Mara under the Bodhi tree. Ramakrishna lay comatose for days.
Each of these preceded the epiphany that saw them become the holy men their traditions now recall.
The neural model for this process heavily emphasizes
the very different emotional tones for the left and right amygdalas. ( the correct plural is amygdalae, but let's
not get too formal). The 'hellish' experience is replaced by a 'heavenly' one as activation in the fearful amygdala
crosses a threshold, shunting dominance over to the positive one.
There are two ways that the left amygdala might
be activated during fear which is dominated by the right amygdala. One is the active suppression of positive emotions
during moments of negative ones, which would require activation of the left. Suppressing left amygdaloid emotions
will require activity there, even though it may not direct the emotional state.
The other is a process referred to as 'intercalation'.
This refers to the process whereby a left-hemispheric function ( for example) recruits right-hemispheric pathways
('matrices of nerones') to fill in it's operations. Thus, for example, language, on the left, requires non-verbal
information processing, derived from the right. Words have both definitions and connotations, and the latter involves
non-verbal cognition. When the same thing happens during moments of fear, the left amygdala will be activated as
well as the right.
These arguments are all in principle. There is
hard evidence. For humans, there is evidence from Persinger's labs. There is also some significant data from rat
studies that demonstrates that if you stimulate two of the amygdaloid nuclei in particular, the one on the right
generated fear, and the one on the left reduced it. Other nuclei, regardless of side, reduced anxiety. Reference.
From the abstract: " Kindling of the left medial or left basolateral amygdala was anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing);
right medial or right or right basolateral kindling tended to be anxiogenic (anxiety-provoking). Kindling of other
than the the medial or basolateral amygdala tended to be anxiolytic regardless of hemisphere".
But people are not rats. Later in this note, we
will look at the evidence from humans derived from stimulation of the amygdala using complex magnetic signals.
Another posting, offered as evidence that amygdaloid
stimulation is dangerous reported a study that found enlarged amygdalas on both sides in patients with depression.
The supposition is that if both amygdalas are enlarged in depression, then depression must have the same impact
on each of them. This is not sound reasoning.
Increased amygdaloid volume means only that both
amygdala must work harder in depression. The amygdala is a emotional structure, so it's not surprising that both
would differ in a depressed person. However, the activation of the left amygdala, specialized for positive emotions,
may involve their inhibition. It takes a lot to suppress positive emotions (or any other for that matter ).
Also, Vectorial Hemisphericity ( an important theory
in Persinger's work) states that no function is ever totally supported by only one side of the brain. Rather, hemispheric
specializations are 'vectoral', involving both sides of the brain to different extents. The degree of difference
between the contribution of each hemisphere for any given neural function depends on both the function in question,
and the neural history of the person.
It would seem that depression does not de-activate
the left amygdala, but rather changes the type of activity so that left-amygdaloid (positive) emotions are suppressed
instead of enabled. It has been said that the brain works (and evolved by) starting with a function, then inhibiting
it, then inhibiting the inhibition, and then inhibiting the inhibitory inhibitions of the inhibited inhibition.
(I'm not trying to be difficult - it's partly a joke - but only partly). Not doing something can take a great deal
of neural activity at times.
Although depression impacts on both amygdalas (
left and right ), other studies have found marked and implicative differences between hemispheric function in depressives.
The left frontal lobes are less active in people with depression. Right hemisphericity has been found to correlate
with low-self esteem, a feature of most depression.
In fact, two studies have found that "Burstx"
(which provided the template for the amygdaloid signal provided with the Shakti ) can be effective in reducing
depression (and anxiety). Reference1
While complex magnetic signal technology may need more trials before it offers a treatment for depression, the
results to date are more than sufficient to reply to the notion that there are inherent dangers in amygdaloid stimulation
are not well-founded. Some people ( left handers, for example) should use care with it, and not everyone is equally
sensitive to it. More to the point, the kind of positive emotions that left amygdaloid elicit are not equally fulfilling
for each person. It may be too soon to generalize, but I'm getting the impression from the Shakti reports (using
only the hippocampal or the amygdaloid signal, and both by default) that each person is likely to find one or the
other signal more fulfilling. Shakti reports most often described phenomena that "clustered" around one
signal or the other.
Another point raised online recently is that the
amygdala is capable of learning long-lasting response to threats, a phenomena that appears in PTSD. While this
is true, it's only half the story. The other side is one that doesn't find it's way into medical journals. The
permanent elevation of self-esteem following positive events. Now, the best that life has to offer is not as good
as the worst. The imperative for self-preservation isn't matched by an imperative to feel good about oneself.
To follow up on this adequately, I must digress
One of the challenges I've faced over the last
couple of years is to describe the range of emotions governed by the left amygdala. In principle, it should be
the opposite of fear, and it is. But to see this, we need to recall that we are a social and hierarchical species,
as well as being linguistic. Some of the best things in life are what anthropologists call "social rewards".
Like... money, sex, security, and power. Tenure. Primate studies have revealed that the amygdala is involved in
social rewards. Two primate studies Reference1 "...these results suggest that the contribution of
the amygdala is to provide the affective value of specific reinforcers (In this case, food) as accessed by associated
conditioned stimuli. Reference2 "A number of recent studies now indicate that the
amygdala is involved in a specific class of stimulus-reward associations..."
Since the pre-Hellenistic period, we've had a really cool social reward. Cash. Money magazine ran an article that
reported a study that found that the amygdala responds to financial loss. The sudden acquisition of money, like
a new job with better pay, can elicit a sense of well-being that meditation just can't create.
The sense that "everything's going to be all
right" is one that can happen both in a near-death experience on meeting God, or when (if it happens to you)
you find a briefcase filled with cash in small, unmarked bills.
Years ago, I was in a grocery store when a very
old woman walked up to me, and in the thickest Russian accent I'd heard up to then said to me: "You are zo
chandsome. You should be in Chollyvood" (ch as in 'chutzpa'). Now, more than twenty years later, I still feel
good remembering that. Believing oneself to be good-looking implies mating opportunities. Higher-ranking males
have more mating opportunities than lower ranking males in most primate species (bonobo monkeys being a notable
exception). To think that one will have an easy time finding mates is very close to thinking that one is an alpha
male or female. Some will be offended by the idea that attractiveness is enough to make one an alpha individual,
but Monika Lewinski and Pamela Lee each have offered proof that mating is enough to give women at least one kind
of importance. The sultan of Burunei (with his harem of over 20 women) is also a primate (Blessings of Allah be
upon him and the good people of Burunei).
Just as a trauma can initiate lasting anxiety,
a positive event can initiate lasting feelings of emotional pleasure. Has anyone ever read "Death of a Salesman"?
The main character, recalling events decades before, says "I knocked 'em dead in Cincinnati." All reason
for pride gone, he remembers how he sold the goods years ago. Such a salesman simply must be an alpha. A man worthy
of respect. One might coin a phrase : PPRS. Post-Promotion Relaxation Syndrome - a left-amygdaloid opposite to
PTSD. But such a syndrome would not be a disorder, so no doctor will ever need to cure it. And nobody is going
to fund research into it.
Sudden, abrupt activation of the left amygdala
can produce lasting alterations in it's functions. If you don't believe me, just win the lottery, and then see
how many fewer threats to your well-being you notice. A lump of cash is a social reward, and that means the amygdala.
PTSD is more than just as right-hemispheric mirror of winning in life; it's a pathology - a disease. One that affects
the victims of modern warfare far more often than "normals". I wonder if PTSD might not be possible because
the modern threats to one's life that war and terrorism offer go far past the threats that out brains are evolved
to handle. Our evolutionary history just never offered us the chance to 'get used' to the kind of war we now see.
If this is so, then we will never see a disorder that demonstrates 'positive' PTSD-like symptoms. The lasting threat
of death is stressful in the extreme, but the lasting improvement in self-esteem that appears after an increase
in one's social rank will never be as powerful.
But can left-amygdaloid stimulation cause PTSD?
NO. No way. How can I be so sure, you might ask? It's been tested, though only with one pilot subject. Perhaps
some an online forum readers will remember D. . When he was participating in an online forum, he was working for
the institute for human self-improvement in Sarajevo. His work with psychological disorders stopped when he was
elected to the Croatian parliament. I'm sure we all wish him luck. I plan to ask him to re-sub in for a while,
so that he can re-state his experiences, but members of parliament often have little time for our sort of nonsense.
I would encourage anyone who is interested in this
to look at his an online forum posting (4/4/2001,
msg. 13201) where he reported his experiences applying the hippocampal signal to the right and the amygdaloid signal
to the left. His pilot had a session, and Plecko wrote that his subject, diagnosed with PTSD reported that "The
obsessive flow of thoughts became controllable."
We should not leap to the conclusion that the Shakti
Helmet is a treatment for PTSD after only one pilot subject. What it does show is that left amygdaloid stimulation
does not worsen PTSD and did not even elicit an episode in one who had PTSD. The idea that left amygdaloid stimulation
can create PTSD is just dead wrong.
Another misapprehension about the amygdala arises
from one author who reported an article in an online forum that described a study that found that amygdaloid activation
was suppressed and activity in the cerebellum increased during orgasm, a result with which I have nothing to debate.
However, there have been unjustified conclusions drawn from this, which I should address because they relate to
Shakti, and Shakti For Windows. Shakti For Windows can be applied to both to the cerebellum and the amygdala.
The article, titled "No room for fear during sex"
is accurate, but the researchers did not find that fear was deactivated during orgasm. They found that amygdala was de-activated, which would inhibit not only fear, but also the range of positive emotions supported
by the left amygdala; elation for example. Sure, nobody's in fear when they're having an orgasm, but nobody's ever
happy. Another point about this study is that it doesn't even address orgasm at all. Rather, it discusses ejaculation
in males. But let's let that pass. We can also let pass the many studies showing an amygdaloid contribution to
the process of sexual arousal and orgasm.
'No fear with orgasm', but also no happiness. Rather,
it's a state of pleasure. And pleasure and positive affect are not the same thing. Just because a structure is
de-activated during pleasure does not make it a pain center. I've always thought it odd that humans pursue pleasure
with such vigor that they make happiness hard to achieve. Pleasure ends after a short interval (an orgasm can last
only a few seconds, though some can train themselves to extend it's duration). A good mood can last for days.
And have you ever thought to wonder why the facial
expressions of extreme pleasure look so much like those of extreme pain? And that neither look anything like those
of happiness? Nobody is in fear when having an orgasm, but nobody smiles, either.
Here's the reasoning, as I understand it (remember,
this is implied, not stated explicitly) The cerebellum is active and the amygdala is inactive during orgasm. Orgasm
feels good. Therefore, amygdaloid activity must feel bad. This is not sound reasoning.
It's also possible that another structure(s) is
(are) modulating both of them, and that it's not the cerebellum that's muting amygdaloid activity, at all. Other
structures might have their fingers on both buttons, so to speak.
Shakti For Windows can be applied to the cerebellum
and to stimulate the amygdala, so people can find out for themselves to what extent these two types of stimulation
cancel each other out. Of course, if anyone is uncomfortable with using the amygdaloid signal, they can still use
the other ten (number will increase as the software is developed further).
One online posting claimed that switching off the
amygdala will increase cognitive skills. It offered a link
to a report that autism involves a dysfunction in the anterior portion of the temporal lobes. However, on reading
the article, one finds no mention of the amygdala at all.
While the amygdala is extensively connected to
the temporal lobes, to assume that a disorder of the temporal lobes (which autism appears to be to some researchers)
automatically means that the amygdala(s) is compromised is not sound reasoning. I would not be surprised at all
if the amygdala were dampened in autism, given that autism often includes cognitive skills that 1) outstrip 'normals'
and 2) most commonly involve spatial pattern perception. These involve areas of the brain outside the amygdala
in the limbic system, and the temporal lobes for the surface of the brain. As pattern perception is an instance
of contextualization, and contextualization is a hippocampal operation, the
hippocampus may be offering a surfeit of activity. As some Shakti participants (That's the helmet, not the software)
can attest, activating the hippocampus can inhibit amygdaloid phenomena. This has been tested in the course of
a few corrective sessions.
There have been two online postings that mentioned the activation of the left amygdala during moments of fear,
and their author interprets this as laying to rest " 'certain' theories of the amygdala", as well as
notions of the lateralization of function for the amygdala. The same author is outspokenly opposed to Persinger's
ideas, even though they have the support of scores of published studies.
Dr. Persinger has two published papers, and a sea
of observations that support the statement that stimulation of the left amygdala can be very pleasant for many
individuals, and may offer a treatment for depression and anxiety disorders. These statements are made with respect
to procedures that were carried out using hardware and software created by Persinger & Koren, which are not
identical to Shakti. I spoke with Persinger on the phone recently, and he re-affirmed that 'burstx' (from which
Shakti's amygdaloid signal is derived) continues to elicit positive experiences and reports when applied over the
There are more points I could cover, but I believe
I've made my point - the many warnings about the amygdala, and it's stimulation are not well-founded, and although
the amygdaloid signal should be used with care, it can be used safely. Hundreds of people have experienced this
technology, and their reports, as well as a number of peer-reviewed publications, support the contention that amygdaloid
stimulation using Shakti, Shakti For Windows, or Persinger's apparatus can be used to good effect if used with
care, and if the user takes advantage of the the tech support.
Those interested in Shakti For Windows should note
that there are almost a dozen other signals, a huge number, in fact - if one uses the function generator, as well
as the specifically neural signals.
( NOTE: no statements about Shakti, Shakti For Windows, or Persinger's apparatus have been evaluated by the FDA.
These are not claimed to diagnose, prevent, or treat medical or psychiatric disorders.)