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Home / Neuroscience / Evolution of the Brain. Part 4. Research in psychology.

Evolution of the Brain. Part 4. Research in psychology.

Evidence for the importance of emotions comes from the field of psychology, too. Here are some important findings:
Stress activates a certain gene that attaches to brain DNA, causing abnormalities that lead to depression as well as other emotional difficulties. The first bad experience feels negative and sets up a pathway in the brain. The second experience feels worse, and after repeated experiences, the memory trace has become a superhighway for depression.

  • When we are calmly energized (good stress), we can perform at our best. However, when stress is severe, it dulls rational thinking. When levels of this substance are high, our memory does not work well, and we make more mistakes.
  • Prolonged stress in laboratory animals has been shown to actually destroy neurons, shrinking the brain’s memory center.
  • People showing little emotion when they first sit down to face an individual who shows a lot of emotion invariably pick up on the mood of the expressive partner. We subtly re-create in ourselves the mood of another, and may, in fact, be programmed to do so.
  • Animal studies show that primates experience empathy, just as humans do. When an animal sees another of its species in distress, the primate brain has specialized neurons in the visual cortex and in the amygdala that fire only in response to particular facial expressions that convey fear, threat, or submission.

Brain layers 2

These findings are particularly relevant in the workplace, where stress can affect the environment as well as performance. Humans are complex “wholes,” programmed to respond emotionally. Excess stress is particularly disruptive to smooth functioning, and it makes concentrated, rational thinking very difficult. “Emotionally intelligent” individuals harness these emotions and use them appropriately.

Emily A. Sterrett, Ph.D. (October 10, 2014). The Science Behind Emotional Intelligence [Blog Post]. Retrieved from here
In text: (Emily A. Sterrett, Ph.D., 2014)

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