Why is this important?
According to Gabrieli, the research tries to understand a small part of what people have in common and what makes everyone unique. "Personality is one big thing that makes us different," he said. "Regardless of whether you're outgoing or shy, worried or extra-relaxed about life, probably the survival aspects of responding quickly to fearful situations are pretty much the same for everyone."
"But not everyone likes to go to a party and be with a bunch of strangers. Some think it's a great opportunity to meet everyone, while others think it's an excellent opportunity to feel lonely and awkward. It's interesting to imagine the mechanisms in the brain that support this desire for what seems to be a pleasant experience, and how they differ from one person to another." Extreme introversion is associated with severe shyness or social phobia, Gabrieli added, both of which can be debilitating conditions that prevent a person from forming meaningful relationships with others.
The next step, Canli said, is to try to find out why the amygdala lights up more in some people than others. "No one knows," he said. "Imaging is a fantastic tool to discover these relationships and to localize them in the brain in the context of the specific tasks that people do. But to explain the biology underlying these phenomena, we will have to go to lower levels of analysis, particularly molecular biology."
Other contributors to the Science study included Heidi Sivers, who earned her doctorate in psychology from Stanford last year and went on to pursue postdoctoral work at the University of Oregon Health Science Center; Susan Whitfield, a science and engineering associate in the Psychology Department; and Ian Gotlib, professor of psychology. The research was supported by a g
Contact: Lisa Trei