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Fear & the Brain

October 26, 2016

The science of human fear is much more complex than is commonly thought.



Finding fear in the brain. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The amygdala has been called the brain’s fear center because it’s triggered by threats and makes our hearts race and palms sweat. But New York University neuroscientist Joseph Ledoux says the notion is far too simple.

JOSEPH LEDOUX (New York University):

What the research shows is that the amygdala is involved in the detection and the response to threat, but not in the actual experience of fear.


He says human fear is complex and involves at least nine different brain regions.

He and NIH neuroscientist Daniel Pine write in the American Journal of Psychiatry that drugs that target the amygdala and make lab rats appear less fearful may be ineffective for humans.  More effective treatments will require a more complete understanding of the complex combination of brain states unique to fear in humans. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon