amygdala and body language

When something stressful happens, or you start thinking about something stressful, within seconds a part of your brain called the amygdala tells your body to release stress hormones.

The amygdala is an almond shaped mass of nuclei located deep within the temporal lobe of the brain. It is a prominent part of the limbic system structure that is involved in many of our emotions and motivations, particularly those that are related to survival. The amygdala is involved in the processing of emotions such as fear, anger and pleasure. The amygdala is also responsible for determining what memories are stored and where the memories are stored in the brain. The amygdala has been implicated in a diverse set of biologically important functions ranging from aversive emotions, through consolidation of memories, to the identification of ethologically relevant stimuli.

Although we all need a little stress to keep us functioning, it becomes a problem when it’s too frequent or lasts too long. Stress is a natural response to fear. Stress places immense pressure on our bodies – immune, adrenal and nervous systems are all affected.

When we feel the pressure, the amygdala tells the body to release adrenaline and cortisol, often called “stress hormones”. These flood your body shutting down the creative problem-solving parts of your brain and slowing down the control over gestures, body movements, digestion, constricting blood vessels, etc. which means your stress is physical, visible, thus measurable and readable.

What to observe and define?

In a stressful situation the body reacts immediately. Natural reactions of the body ( gestures, posture, movements of the hands, …) become visible and therefore measurable. Most common in the observation is speed, tension and contradictions in bodily movements, as defined by Bodysystemics.


About Gérard Stokkink

Gerard Stokkink, lecturer body language & non verbal communication
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