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:12/4/2016)... , ... December 03, 2016 , ... While James Earl ... serving as host for in a show called "Front Page". One of the forthcoming ... years, breast cancer rates have plummeted in large part due to early detection. Like ...
(Date:12/4/2016)... Washington DC (PRWEB) , ... December 04, 2016 , ... ... Environmental, one of the most certified and experienced Indoor Air Quality Companies in VA, ... Assessment and Remediation Regulations. , The new mold law in the district ...
(Date:12/2/2016)... ... December 02, 2016 , ... On Dec. 2, 2016, CURE® magazine ... San Diego honoring the 2016 MPN Heroes—eight individuals who have made a difference in ... and beyond the standard of care, demonstrating leadership within the MPN community and/or a ...
(Date:12/2/2016)... ... 2016 , ... Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) Portland today announced ... disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities. The group, which is being launched with the ... the opportunity to share stories and advice, seek help, and continue their education on ...
(Date:12/2/2016)... ... December 02, 2016 , ... ... California, will be included in the 2016 “Guide to America’s Top Plastic Surgeons” ... on the amalgamation of their education, experience, and professional associations. , One ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:12/4/2016)... 3, 2016 Johnson & Weaver, LLP announces that ... of Zimmer Biomet Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: ZBH ) ... 31, 2016 (the "Class Period"). Zimmer Biomet provides ... orthopaedic reconstructive products, such as knee and hip reconstructive products. ... , , ...
(Date:12/4/2016)...   Pairnomix, LLC, a genetic research company and ... the White House, today announced that findings from its first ... candidate therapies for a patient with epileptic encephalopathy caused by ... at the 70 th Annual Meeting of the ... , December 2-6, 2016.  Pairnomix, unique process involves ...
(Date:12/4/2016)...  Results from the Phase II SUSTAIN study show ... the median annual rate of sickle cell-related pain crises ... p=0.010) in patients with or without hydroxyurea therapy 1 ... featured in the official press briefing at the 58 ... and presented during the Plenary Scientific Session tomorrow (Abstract ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: