FEAR- Is It Really Mind Over Matter?
Fear can be a motivator or a crippling disease that keeps one from trying something new or difficult. Most of us can explain the emotion of fear, can recognize the facial expression of fear and can recount a time when they have personally experienced fear.
But how does fear really work?
Most of us have at one time or another experienced, what society has linguistically termed, fear. But biologically speaking how does fear make us act the way it does? According to io9.com: neuroscience , science knows how our brains process fear, but all the neural underpinnings of fear still remain a mystery.
Fear is one of the seven scientifically proven universal facial expressions of emotion. The universal trigger of fear is a threat to one’s well-being. The brain processes fear with the amygdala, almond-shaped clusters of neurons deep in our medial temporal lobes.
It has long been believed that the amygdala played a role in processing fear, how big a role had been undetermined until now. A 1939 study revealed that removing the temporal lobes entirely (this includes the amygdala and connective fiber tissues within the lobes) made primates more tame, less aggressive and less responsive to fearful situations.
In another study in 1952, it was discovered that taking out only the amygdalae had the same effect of the disappearance of fear. However, there has not been any revealing evidence of the effect of such a procedure on a human.
The ever increasing advancements in technology have allowed science to delve deep into the brain and focus on particular regions without causing collateral damage to adjoining regions of the brain. In their review, “Neuropsychology of Fear and Loathing”, published in the journal Nature neuroscentists Andrew Calder, Andrew Lawrence and Andrew Young made observations about the the scientific strides in understanding the processing power of the amygdala and fear in the human brain. They attribute advancements such as the fMRI for the ability to safely probe deeper into certain portions of the brain without damaging other portions.
The most popular human case study has shown that there is quite a difference between perceiving fear and having the ability to experience fear via brain signals (i.e. fight or flight response). It was recently published, in January of 2011, and conducted on a human with Urbach-Wiethe disease (renders her amygdala useless). The study revealed that the amygdala is a pivotal area in the brain for triggering (experiencing) fear.
What are your thoughts on fear?
Some people like to experience mild fear (just look at Halloween thrill seekers) and some people can’t stand the idea of being frightened, even if it is only a fleeting emotion.
What would you do if you couldn’t experience fear? Would that be a bad thing or would that perhaps be beneficial?