An Animal Area in the Human Brain

Part of our brain is dedicated to reacting to animals.

Edyta Zielinska
Aug 29, 2011

FLICKR, AIRIN

Researchers showed that only the right-brain side of the amygdala is involved in processing images of animals—in terms or fear, aversion, or affection—highlighting the importance animals throughout our evolutionary history in a study published online yesterday in Nature Neuroscience .  The amygdala is the part of the brain involved in processing fear and other emotions, and has a lobe in both the right hemisphere as well as the left.

Researchers recorded from nearly 500 individual neurons in the brains of patients who were being monitored for epilepsy, while displaying a range of photos of people, animals, landmarks, and objects.  Only neurons in the right amygdala responded consistently to photos of animals—signaling in response to both those that were "cute" and those that might elicit fear or disgust.

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