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 does not.
theories I work with primarily are those developed within the Laurentian
University Behavioral Neurosciences Program, directed Dr. Michael
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 (1) Reference (2)
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.
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,
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.
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.
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 ).
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
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.
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 a bit.
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
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
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
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.
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 left.
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.
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.)