Profanity is Mindless

That’s right. Curse words are not processed in the same area of the brain as other language. Speaking requires language processing of units of sound, whereas curse words are stored as whole data chunks. Cussing requires less mental processing, and is primarily a function of the amygdala, a part of the brain’s limbic system which processes negative emotions.

The limbic system is in the center depths of the brain and composed of several organs responsible for memory and processing of emotions and behaviors. This area is also responsible for vocalizations in primates and animals. Yep, even animals use profanity, or at least it sounds like it!

Piecing the smallest units of sound (phonemes) together is slower and occurs in the cerebral cortex. This area of higher functioning is home to our abilities to reason and write, in addition to speaking. The formation of non-curse words seems to take longer and involves less spontaneous emotion. The formation of words is not only based on literal meanings but also feelings and emotions the words evoke. Since adult speech perception is somewhat automatic, words with strong negative connotations are easily retrieved and spoken almost spontaneously

Here are a few questions I’ve been asked recently: Why does profanity seem to slip out when our emotions are negative and spontaneous? Why is it so hard to complete a sentence when I’m angry or frustrated?

Since the amygdala is correlated with negative emotional associations; stimulating the amygdala can cause panic attacks and aggressive behaviors, while destroying the amygdala causes unusual calmness or fearlessness. Therefore, it makes sense that the amygdala would be activated in association with unpleasant words such as swear words.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies indicate verbal working memory tasks’ performances increase during positive emotional states but decrease during negative emotional states. Aha! “That’s why we can’t remember ‘sh_t’ when we are upset and frustrated.”

~ Dr. Doscher

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5 Behaviors to Improve Brain Plasticity

Are you a creature of habit? I am not referring to toilet paper brands. If your closest acquaintances can predict your daily routine, then it is time for some mind limbering.

  1. Break habits, rearrange daily tasks, and create new routines.
  2. Update your mind’s playbook.  Revisit your schema and update your outlook, a.k.a. your book of rules.
  3. Now for the workout…engage your prefrontal cortex.  Participate in new activities, not in your daily routine.
  4. Recognize and accept all of your emotions.  Ride the roller coaster!  According to a Duke University study, denying one’s emotions is a culprit for addictive behaviors.
  5. Change your focus throughout the day.  Allow your mind time to relax and your emotions change.

Mind limbering is stimulating. Go ahead, create some new neural pathways and feel the difference!

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