Carter said the prefrontal cortex (“the CEO of your brain”) calls the shots under normal circumstances. But during periods of stress, the amygdala (which helps process emotions) takes over. The amygdala sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus, which coordinates communications between the body and brain. In response to what it perceives as a threat, the hypothalamus triggers the “fight or flight” response, channeling all the body’s resources into escaping or vanquishing the danger. Our hearts pound, our pupils dilate, our breaths become rapid.