Fear is generally considered a response to an immediately present threat. As a result, when scientists study fear they measure the way the brain detects and responds to threats.
These responses are viewed as proxies for the conscious feelings of fear. But are they? In humans so-called “fear” responses can occur without awareness of the stimulus and without any feeling of “fear.” Further, in humans, different brain circuits underlie the conscious feeling of fear and the behavioral and physiological responses that also occur. This means that fear responses should not be viewed as reliable measures of circuits that give rise to fearful feelings. This conclusion has profound implications for how we think about, do research on, and treat problems related to fear, and its partner, anxiety.
Eminent neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux (New York University) will speak about his new book Anxious: Using the Brain to Understand and Treat Fear and Anxiety (Penguin 2015).
Joseph LeDoux is a neuroscientist whose research is primarily focused on the biological underpinnings of emotion and memory, especially brain mechanisms related to fear and anxiety. LeDoux is the Henry and Lucy Moses Professor of Science at New York University, and director of the Emotional Brain Institute, a collaboration between NYU and New York State with research sites at NYU and at the Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research in Orangeburg, New York. He is the author of many works, including The Emotional Brain (1996), The Synaptic Self (2002), and Anxious: Using the Brain to Understand and Treat Fear and Anxiety (2015). He is a fellow of the American Academy of Sciences and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. In addition, he is the lead singer and songwriter in the band The Amygdaloids.