Taming Our Brains AmygdalaIn The Emotional Brain, Joseph LeDoux, a professor of neuroscience at New York University, explains the “fear system” in laboratory animals — such as monkeys — and humans.

The almond-shaped clump of tissue called the amygdala can be a real troublemaker. Whenever you sense potential danger (26 voice-mails on your cell phone coming to life like the Nutcracker), the amygdala triggers an “oh, crap!” reaction, pumping adrenaline and other (not so great) hormones into your bloodstream.

A fraction of a second later, the higher, more educated, evolved, sophisticated (Harvard professor type) region of the brain gets the signal and takes on the case, digging for the truth, sometimes accusing the amygdala of being an over-reactive alarmist. Unfortunately we experience fear more vividly than we do a rational response, and can sometimes make decisions based on the immature brat of our amygdala.

The trick is teaching the amygdala to chill out while you get the real story from the upper regions of the brain, where you’ll get a more thoughtful, considerate analysis.

In other words, try not to act like a monkey.