The amygdala is located deep within the brain: the basal ganglia must be removed before it is exposed. It is next to the hippocampus and is slightly medial (more centrally located) than the hypothalamus. It is almond-shaped and is the area which can be credited (or blamed, depending on how you look at it) for our emotional states. More specifically, it deals with our primal emotions, and is also a memory bank for our past emotional experiences.
This is the area that generates fear when we come across an anxiety-provoking scenario, such as going on stage or attending a job interview and generates the ‘fight, flight or fright’ response (which is part of the ANS) when we come across something dangerous, such as facing a growling dog that wants to bite you. It is also responsible for when we become angry or when we experience pleasure, either from eating something which you are tempted with (hands up all chocoholics!) or from intimate moments.
It also plays a key role in filtering through the mundane moments in our lives and picking and choosing memorable moments; these moments the amygdala tags and sends them to the hippocampus for long-term storage. These memorable moments often tend to include a strong emotional state; whether the emotions involved are strongly positive or strongly negative or a mixture of both i.e. a bittersweet moment such as finishing high school. In that case, you’d probably feel both relieved and elated at finishing but at the same time slightly sorrowful that you’d be starting a new life (filled with some degree of uncertainty) and potentially leaving your old friends behind.
The hippocampus is the chief (emotional) memory file centre of the brain. It is structured similarly to a hook, as the diagram below shows.
It is the primary centre for the development of new memories; information regarding the emotional state is sent from the amygdala and the hippocampus performs the important task of connecting the memory to the emotions and any information regarding the five senses to them.It is also the control centre for determining where our memories end up: it patches the memories to different parts of the brain depending on the information contained within them.
Another key function associated with the hippocampus is the interpretation of signals given from the inner ear and maintaining your sense of spatial orientation. The inner ear is responsible for making sure you don’t hit the floor every few seconds.