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Fear Defends Against Illusions

If the functionality of the brain’s amygdala (where fear is processed) is impaired, illusory perceptions arise much faster and more pronounced, according to a team of researchers led by the University of Bonn.

Experiments with volunteers showed the brain structure of the amygdala, which is widely known for its eminent role in fear processing, apparently provides effective protection against body perception disorders.

This insight from basic research may also enable a better understanding of mental illnesses.

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Prior experiments have shown that the amygdala has a protective function against impaired body perception.

The amygdala has often been described as an alarm system generating fear responses to external hazard stimuli, what is new is that this brain structure also plays a major role in body perception.

This protective structure apparently prevailed early on in evolution, as hunters and gatherers, threatened by wild animals and enemy clans, humans would probably have had little chance of survival if they suffered from body illusions in the event of danger.

The scientists are now wondering whether the amygdala may also play a role in diseases associated with a disturbed body schema which could be key in understanding mental illness.

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