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Mastery of Emotions, Article Writing Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1120

Article Writing

Introduction

This essay selects an article from a scientific journal and expounds and reflects upon it. In the succeeding paragraphs, the rationale behind selecting the specific article is explained, followed by a discussion of the main points given in the article, and my own positive and negative thoughts and views about the material presented in the article.

Rationale for Article Selection

Before selecting the article, I first contemplated on the area that I wished to learn more about. Deciding that area to be the science of the mind, I looked for journals that dealt directly with the subject. This led me to downloading a copy of the Scientific American Mind, from which I was able to find the article by Dobbs (2006). I selected this particular article first and foremost because the description of it in the table of contents simply urged me to read on. It said that a scientist had “discovered how fear arises.

Now he is showing that the biology of emotions is what gives life meaning.” (Dobbs, 2006, p. 2) Needless to say, the statement gave an overview of the paper that was long enough to generate interest and short enough to keep it.

Summary of the article

The article by Dobbs (2006) largely revolves around the works of a neuroscientist, John E. LeDoux on the dynamics through which the brain recognizes fear and acts upon it. The article first gave a background on LeDoux, how his parents had wanted him to take up business in college and how in doing so, he eventually found his way to studying neuroscience, eventually becoming one of the most prominent researchers in the biology of emotions area. In this area, LeDoux used an experiment parallel to that conducted by Ivan Pavlov over a century ago to better understand how animals, and implicitly, humans process fear in their minds. The experiment LeDoux conducted involved exposing rats to a harmful stimulus as well as a harmless stimulus at the same time. After some repetition, the rats came to fear the harmless stimulus, having associated it with the harmful stimulus. However, LeDoux went beyond reconstructing and modifying the classical conditioning experiment to understanding by what mechanisms the rat comes to associate the harmless stimulus with the harmful one. This led him to the discovery of two pathways through which the brain processes the emotion of fear. Both pathways involve reaching the amygdala, “the almond-shaped structure near the center of the brain, long considered the seat of emotions.” (Dobbs, 2006, p. 47). The primary path that produces the sensation of fear starts from the thalamus which receives the sensory information and shoots directly to the amygdala, with an impulse as quick as five milliseconds. The subject is not even conscious of this process; the subject’s body simply and instantaneously becomes alert. The longer path makes a detour to the brain’s thinking area before proceeding to the amygdala. This detour enables the subject to add context to the sensory data based on the subject’s memories, and leads to responses derived from such stored information. LeDoux found that when the first path was removed, the rat becomes unable to fear the sound that comes with the electric shock. However when the second path is removed, the rat loses the ability to consciously sense the sound but still exhibits a fearful reaction towards it. These discoveries were pivotal in the area of understanding emotions, as they showed that it was possible to biologically modify an organism in a manner that could change the way it subconsciously generates reactions to conditioned stimuli. This is strengthened by numerous other pathways that LeDoux found which controlled other emotions and which all passed the amygdala. It therefore became clear that the amygdala is very important in helping people make sense of and react to all sorts of situations. This was affirmed by other studies that involved the observation of brain activity from human subjects with healthy and damaged brains. These studies confirmed that alterations to the amygdala can change what and how people feel. With this breakthrough, various applications have been recommended, such as purposely altering the amygdala to help people with emotional disorders. For example, if a person was suffering from such a painful memory, it may be possible to find the neural paths that lead the person to suffer emotionally from that memory and cut them off. However, there are concerns that this kind of innovation can be used for motives outside the field of healing, such as for erasing people’s memories or controlling their reactions.

Thoughts on the article

I found the article to be quite compelling and highly informative. Being familiar with the classical conditioning experiment conducted by Pavlov, I greatly appreciated how the author included this part in article to help readers understand the piece better. It was fascinating to know that our minds can be biologically altered to change how we feel. At the same time, I understand and agree with the opinion that drugs which may be borne from this discovery are at risk of being used for more than just curing the emotionally afflicted. I believe that was with all scientific breakthroughs, scientists have a responsibility to take caution in ensuring that their work is not abused and used without proper conscience. The author was able to do justice to the work of LeDoux, in a manner that appealed not just to those who were experts in the area, but also to the average reader of scientific articles. As one such person, I did not found the article very easy to digest, without the usual jargon found in scientific researches that impede understanding. However, the tradeoff of this is a lack of more thorough scientific detail into the studies conducted. For example, while I was able to understand the concept of neural networks and how they play into the dynamics of emotions, I am honestly at a loss as to how LeDoux was able to destroy some of these neural paths as described in the article. In this regard, the article lets the reader’s imagination fly with images of a scientist searing the brain of a rat with a laser, and proposing that similar procedures be performed on humans in order to cure them of posttraumatic stress disorders. The article could have been more detailed in this area, as more details would have helped the reader create a grounded understanding of the concepts presented.

Conclusion

The article was scientifically enriching. Such articles as the one written by Dobbs (2006) make scientific discoveries and future trends more understandable to a general audience. Publishing them is a great way of introducing society to scientific advancements and making its members appreciate it at a scholarly level.

Reference

Dobbs, D. (2006). Mastery of Emotions. Scientific American Mind, 44-49.

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