Nerve cells from the brain’s emotion hub talk directly to a region that doles out attention, a study of monkeys shows. The connection, described in the April 11 Journal of Neuroscience, may help explain how people automatically focus on emotional events.

In humans, the amygdala is made up of two structures the shape and size of almonds, one on each side of the brain. Best known for its role in processing fear, the amygdala helps process other emotions, too, including pleasurable ones.

Axons from the amygdala converge on an attention hub in the brain called the thalamic reticular nucleus, the scientists found. These axons form a straight shot to attention’s command central, directing the mind’s focus where it needs to go.

The axons from the amygdala to the reticular nucleus appeared to be unusually strong, the team found. “When they talk, they shout,” Zikopoulos says. “They have veto power. They can override signals.”

Why emotions are attention-getters

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