Separating findings from conclusions
I’ve been studying the amygdala for more than 30 years. When I started this work, research on this brain region was a lonely field of inquiry. The hippocampus was all therage, and I sometimes felt jealous of the attention lavished on this brain region because of its contribution to memory. These days, though, it is the amygdala that is in the spotlight. This little neural nugget has gone from an obscure area of the brain to practically a household word, one that has come to be synonymous with “fear.” And for many people, my name, too, is practically synonymous with “fear.” I am often said to have identified the amygdala as the brain’s “fear” center. But the fact is, I have not done this, nor has anyone else.
The idea that the amygdala is the home of fear in the brain is just that—an idea. It is not a scientific finding but instead a conclusion based on an interpretation of a finding. So what is the finding, what is the interpretation, and how did the interpretation come about?/.../