Neuroscience of Fear

By Aurangzeb Soharwardi

The emotion,
fear, has been hard-wired into almost every individual, due to its vital role
in the survival of the individual. It prevents people from taking decisions,
doing challenging tasks and even going in the dark rooms and seeing dreadful
dreams.Fear has many forms and enormous types. On the other hand there are
people who are courageous and fearless. They take bold decisions, face
challenges and even defeat furious animals and natural calamities. The question
arises whether to be fearful or fearless in dealing with life situations. How
to be fearless by over coming all fears or there should be some degree of fear.
THE ANSWER LIES IN CREATING A BALANCE BETWEEN FEARFULNESS AND FEARLESSNESS.
Fear is a good emotion which can make us survive or thrive, where as same
emotion if increased or unbalanced can ruin our life. On the other side if a
person becomes fearless , that person can also create many problems for
him/herself or the society. Researchers have found that fear is established unconsciously and that the amygdala is involved with fear conditioning. To be fearless means we don’t conform to the norm if it’s against what we believe in. Instead, be courageous, do the opposite from others and break free from society’s expectations. Fearless people don’t spend much time hesitating about making decisions, because they do not fear the unknown.By understanding how fear is developed within individuals, it may be possible to treat human mental disorders such as anxiety, social anxiety, phobia, and post traumatic stress disorder. Nore pinephrine is a huge player in fear memory formation.Tremendous progress has been made in basic neuroscience in recent decades. One area that has been especially successful is research on how the brain detects and responds to threats. Such studies have demonstrated comparable patterns of brain-behavior relationships underlying threat processing across a range of mammalian species, including humans. This would seem to be an ideal body of information for advancing our understanding of disorders in which altered threat processing is a key factor, namely, fear and anxiety disorders. But research on threat processing has not led to significant improvements in clinical practice. It has long been assumed that an innate “fear system” exists in the mammalian brain and that this system, in the presence of a threat, generates both the conscious feeling of “fear” and the behavioral and physiological responses typical of such experiences . We propose instead a “two systems” framework, with one set of circuits for generating conscious feelings and a second set for controlling behavioral and physiological responses to threats. he pathways through which we consciously and subconsciously interpret fear are not well understood by neuroscientists. This week two new studies were released about the amygdala and its role in fear and fearlessness. As with many advances in science, it appears the more we know about the amygdala, the less we actually understand how it works. This research says panic, or intense fear, is induced somewhere outside of the amygdala,” says John Wemmie, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa and senior author on the paper. “This could be a fundamental part of explaining why people have panic attacks.””Information from the outside world gets filtered through the amygdala in order to generate fear,” added first author Justin Feinstein, a clinical neuro psychologist who earned his doctorate at the UI last year. “On the other hand, signs of danger arising from inside the body can provoke a very primal form of fear, even in the absence of a functioning amygdala.” Fear can make you run and hide, it can motivate you to take action, and it can freeze you dead in your tracks. In a 2010 study published in Neuron, scientists in Italy at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and Glaxo Smith Kline in Verona identified that a specific type of neurons in the amygdala determine how mice react to a frightening stimulus. Their findings revealed that deciding whether or not to freeze when you are faced with fear is a much more complex task for our brains than was formerly realized. Fear is a primitive emotion that is conserved throughout the animal kingdom (Walters et al., 1981; LeDoux, 2012; Adolphs, 2013). Survival in the wild is critically dependent on the flexible assessment of threatening stimuli, which entails the processing, integration, and synthesis of information acquired by multiple sensory modalities. Because aversive experiences are never completely identical, animals must generalize their fear of a past experience to future encounters that bear a sufficient degree of similarity to the original event. Like other memory-related processes, generalization is modulated by a number of intrinsic factors, including internal states (estrous and circadian cycles; Hull, 1943; Toufexis et al., 2007; Koch et al., 2017), previous experience (Lashley and Wade, 1946), genetic background (Temme et al., 2014), and sex differences (Day et al., 2016; Keiser et al., 2017). Generalization is also influenced by external factors including the type and intensity of averse stimulation (Baldi et al., 2004), early-life stress (Elliott and Richardson, 2018), as well as the saliencey of particular elements in the environment (Huckleberry et al., 2016). Finally, generalization is sensitive to the passage of time, as memories naturally lose both their precision and strength (McAllister and McAllister, 1963; Winocur et al., 2007; Jasnow et al., 2012; Pollack et al., 2018). Given the large number of variables that impinge on the generalization of fear, it has been challenging to develop an overarching neuro biological framework with robust explanatory power. However, recent studies have begun to provide some compelling new insights. Furthermore, whereas generalization has adaptive value, over generalization is mal adaptive, and is a major feature of anxiety- and stress-related disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD; Elzinga and Bremner, 2002; Lissek et al., 2010; Dunsmoor and Paz, 2015). Therefore, a better understanding of the neuro biology of generalization is essential from a transnational perspective.Our response to scary situations is often described as our “flight-or-fight” response. In a scary situation, our body can produce adrenaline (which can lead to great feats of strength otherwise not possible under tamer circumstances) and groups of hormones called endorphins (also linked to exercise and positive mood enhancement).A 2008 study in the Journal of Neurology also found that flooding the brain with dopamine is also linked to behaviors suggestive of fear and paranoia in rats. Since dopamine is also associated with pleasure, its release in scary situations, along with a so-called “rush” of adrenaline and endorphins can lead to an elevated mood or high. Some people enjoy this high more than others.Most people do not actually want to live through a terrifying or traumatizing ordeal. The key difference with experiences like scary movies, haunted houses, and even roller coasters is that our brain can quickly process the threat and determine that it is not “real.” So if our senses trigger a fear response, for example if we suddenly feel the floor drop out from under us on an amusement park ride, our brain can immediately recognize that we are not in any real danger but are instead in a safe, controlled environment. Although psychologists have not identified a “fear center” in the brain, the amygdala, nestled between the temporal lobes, appears to be involved in how we process scary situations or threats. Animals with amygdala damage are observed to be tamer and have less of a flight-or-fight response. Neural activity is also observed in the human amygdala, along with increased heart rate, when threats are introduced. Evidence for the dominant role in fear response played by the amygdala was further found in a 1995 study in the Journal of Neuroscience of a woman known as “SM” with a rare genetic disorder, Urbach-Wiethe disease, which caused her amygdala to harden and shrink. Not only could “SM” not recognize fearful expressions, she also showed no signs of fear in typically scary situations like haunted houses or when surrounded by venomous snakes.Some fears are innate, like the fear that tells you not to jump off that platform, even though you know you are safely tied to a bungee cord that will keep you from hitting the ground. We depend on these fears for our survival. However, we can also be conditioned to fear things that otherwise would not be scary.Fear is an involuntary response that causes us to back away, run, or maybe elect not to do something risky. However, despite this automatic fear response, people may act contrary to what fear tells them – they may commit an act of courage. In an article on psychological courage, Daniel Putman described courage broadly as overcoming fear to reach a goal. Through their fMRI analyses of brain activity, the researchers were able to identify an interesting pattern indicative of a possible “courage center” in the brain. A neural circuit that determines a courageous reaction to threat. The selective removal of specific fears is a key goal in neuroscience, as we search for treatments for phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder and other anxiety disorders. researchers are now exploring one region of the brain: the hypothalamus. Located deep within the brain, the hypothalamus is a kind of ancient brain center for motivations and internal drives such as hunger. Although human impulses such as the desire for happiness or love are not limited to the hypothalamus, they relate to basic motivations that have their roots in the need to survive and reproduce. If the energy levels in your body run low, for example, certain neurons in the hypothalamus will scream out, triggering the sensation of hunger. Similarly, a chain of neuro biological reactions underlies the sensation of thirst when your body is short of water; anger if someone invades your territory; and fear if you encounter a fierce dog. Intriguingly, a similar behavior has been observed in humans – which first suggested to neuroscientists that fear is controlled by different areas of the brain. Before we knew the hypothalamus was involved in fear, we thought perhaps the only area of the brain involved was another small region known as the amygdala.
So the key to success is to create and maintain a balance between fearfulness and fearlessness. Fearlessness can also be very precarious in many situations , how ever Fearfulness about sin or good deeds, fearfulness about God and his obedience, fearfulness about not harming humans and the nature or fearfulness about protecting own and others honor is very good and a virtue. The importance of striking a balance,
which scientists continue to investigate. Basic emotions can be vital but
become harmful in the extreme

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