Identifying safe or dangerous situations are essential for survival. A child may be fearful of crossing a road alone, but he will be completely relaxed while crossing the same road with his mom. The inability to discriminate between dangerous and safe situations produces responses that may lead to anxiety disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder (Pitman et al., 2012). The fear circuitry in the brain has been extensively mapped out with many studies focusing on the amygdala as the primary player in fear regulation (LeDoux, 2000). In fact, many undergraduate students in psychology and physiology are taught that the amygdala is the “fear center” of the brain. However, recent experiments demonstrate that the amygdala is responsible for regulating safety, too!Continue reading
For Indiana Jones, there was no villain as menacing and no foe as treacherous as the writhing snakes in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Audiences saw their archaeologist champion paralyzed by fear and almost vanquished by his reptilian adversary. Heroic Indy is not alone! Approximately one third of adults report being ophidiophobic, or terrified of even the thought of snakes. Continue reading
Shakespeare left out a crucial component for understanding human behavior when he wrote:
it is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.
Our genetic predispositions are only part of the equation when it comes to determining our risk for developing psychiatric disorders. Exposure to stressful environments during critical periods of brain development plays a dramatic role in changing gene function and influencing response to traumatic events in adulthood.Continue reading
You are sitting at your computer quietly reading this article when – BOOM! – there is a sharp loud noise behind you! You instinctively stop what you are doing, jump up, and turn to the source of the noise. You freeze where you stand, and your brain quickly assesses the danger of the situation. Although it may seem like a brief moment, your brain is processing a ton of information and trying to decide if you should run away or stay and fight!Continue reading
There are a handful of things that make me really uneasy. The mere thought of getting onto a roller coaster, especially the kind that slowly ascends hundreds of feet before dropping uncontrollably at high speeds, makes me want to let out a childish high-pitched squeal. Even the “cool” elevators that glide on the outside of buildings, which might give you a beautiful panoramic view, only leave me feeling sick.Continue reading