Navigation Links
Free will takes flight: how our brains respond to an approaching menace
Date:8/24/2007

Wellcome Trust scientists have identified for the first time how our brain's response changes the closer a threat gets. Using a "Pac Man"-like computer game where a volunteer is pursued by an artificial predator, the researchers showed that the fear response moves from the strategic areas of the brain towards more reactive responses as the artificial predator approaches.

When faced with a threat, such as a large bear, humans, like other animals, alter their behaviour depending on whether the threat is close or distant. This is because different defence mechanisms are needed depending on whether, for example, the bear is fifty feet away, when being aware of its presence may be enough, or five feet away, when we might need to fight or run away.

To investigate what happens in the brain in such a situation, researchers at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL, London, created a game where subjects were chased through a maze by an artificial predator if caught, they would receive a mild electric shock. The researchers then measured their brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The results are published today in the journal Science.

When the artificial predator was in the distance, the researchers observed activity in lower parts of the prefrontal cortex just behind the eyebrows. Activity in this area known as the ventromedial prefrontal cortex increases during anxiety and helps control strategies on how to respond to the threat.

However, as the predator moved closer, the brain activity shifted to a region of the brain responsible for more primitive behaviour, namely the periaqueductal grey. The periaqueductal grey is associated with quick-response survival mechanisms, which include fight, flight and freezing. This region is also associated with the body's natural pain killer, opioid analgesia, preparing the body to react to pain.

Dr Dean Mobbs from UCL, lead author on the study, says: "Without fear, animals would not react to threats. This is a poor survival strategy and makes it more likely that the animal will be eaten and not pass on its genes.

"The most efficient survival strategy will depend on the level of threat we perceive. This makes sense as sometimes being merely wary of a threat is enough, but at other times we need to react quickly. The closer a threat gets, the more impulsive your response will be in effect, the less free will you will have."

Although this natural defence mechanism is beneficial in evolutionary terms, Dr Mobbs believes that malfunctions in the system might help explain why some people suffer from anxiety disorders and panic attacks.

"When our defence mechanisms malfunction, this may result in an over-exaggeration of the threat, leading to increased anxiety and, in extreme cases, panic," says Dr Mobbs. "Although brain-imaging studies like ours cannot directly help to cure such disorders, they do improve our understanding of how the emotional system operates. This is the first step to helping people with anxiety-related disorders."


'/>"/>
Contact: Craig Brierley
c.brierley@wellcome.ac.uk
44-207-611-7329
Wellcome Trust
Source:Eurekalert

Related medicine news :

1. India takes on foot-and-mouth disease by vaccinating animals
2. Roller coaster takes brain for a big ride!!
3. Children! Protecting them from medical mistakes
4. World Health Organisation Takes a Historic Decision and Approves Treaty to Discourage Smoking
5. World Health Organisation Takes a Historic Decision and Approves Treaty to Discourage Smoking
6. World Health Organisation Takes a Historic Decision and Approves Treaty to Discourage Smoking
7. Men who takes risk is unlikely to impress women
8. Research on HIV takes new direction
9. Bhitarkanika Sanctuary In Orissa Takes Precaution To Monitor Bird Flu
10. Government Takes Tough Stand Against Falling Sex Ratio
11. Bill Gates Takes Personal Interest in AIDS Program
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:6/26/2016)... ... June 26, 2016 , ... PawPaws brand pet ... product that was developed to enhance the health of felines. The formula is all-natural ... two main herbs in the PawPaws Cat Kidney Support Supplement Soft Chews ...
(Date:6/26/2016)... ... June 26, 2016 , ... ... have been diagnosed with endometriosis. These women need a treatment plan to not ... comprehensive approach that can help for preservation of fertility and ultimately achieving a ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... Austin, TX (PRWEB) , ... June 25, 2016 , ... ... Fellow of the American College of Mohs Surgery and to Dr. Russell Peckham for ... popular and highly effective treatment for skin cancer. The selective fellowship in Mohs Micrographic ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... June 25, 2016 , ... "With 30 hand-drawn hand gesture ... said Christina Austin - CEO of Pixel Film Studios. , ProHand Cartoon’s package ... Final Cut Pro X . Simply select a ProHand generator and drag it ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... June 25, 2016 , ... As a lifelong Southern ... Laude and his M.D from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He ... Los Angeles to complete his fellowship in hematology/oncology at the UCLA-Olive View-Cedars Sinai program ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/24/2016)... Research and Markets has announced the addition of the ... to their offering. ... World Market for Companion Diagnostics covers the world market for ... report includes the following: , World IVD ... (N. America, EU, ROW), 2015-2020 , World IVD Companion ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... 24, 2016  Arkis BioSciences, a leading innovator ... more durable cerebrospinal fluid treatments, today announced it ... funding is led by Innova Memphis, followed by ... private investors.  Arkis, new financing will accelerate the ... market release of its in-licensed Endexo® technology. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... Research and Markets has announced the addition ... Chemical (Sugar, Petrochemical, Glycerin), Inorganic Chemical), Functionality (Filler, Binder, ... Forecast to 2021" report to their offering. ... excipients market is projected to reach USD 8.1 Billion ... forecast period 2016 to 2021. The ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: