Internal meme?

Gatherer, D. (
Wed, 22 Sep 1999 16:59:20 +0200

Date: Wed, 22 Sep 1999 16:59:20 +0200
From: "Gatherer, D. (Derek)" <>
Subject: Internal meme?
To: "''" <>

Those of you (all 6 of you) who are long-standing inmates of this list will
no doubt be familiar with my scepticism concerning the existence of
'internal memes', by which I mean memes defined according to Dawkins B
'units of information in the brain'. I am however, willing to be persuaded
that such things exist if the evidence is great enough. To this end, I am
always on the look out in the neuroscience literature for anything meme-like
actually in the brain.

The best I have seen so far is:

Isenberg et al (1999) Linguistic threat activates the human amygdala. Proc
Natl Acad Sci USA 96, 10456-10459

This describes how subjects were PET-scanned while being shown 'threat'
words, like 'destroy', 'mutilate', 'whip' etc Controls were shown neutral
words. It appears that threat words activate the amygdala bilaterally, and
(the subejcts were all right-handed) the left parahippocampal gyrus/lingual
gyrus, and also a small region of the left premotor cortex.

So whenever you hear something you don't like the sound of, certain small
regions of the brain are activated (insofar as PET signal indicates neuronal
activation, which of course is a very indirect method). The activation of
the cortex may even be part of some preparation to act on one's dislikes
(eg. by running away)

Meme or not meme?

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