Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Understanding fear means correctly defining fear itself

Date:
February 4, 2014
Source:
New York University
Summary:
Understanding and properly studying fear is partly a matter of correctly defining fear itself. New analysis points to ways research can be better geared to address a range of fear-related afflictions, such as post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) and commonly experienced phobias.

Understanding and properly studying fear is partly a matter of correctly defining fear itself, New York University neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux writes in a new essay published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. His analysis points to ways research can be better geared to address a range of fear-related afflictions, such as post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) and commonly experienced phobias.

Much of the current confusion in neuroscience research on fear stems from the conflation of two separate phenomena that are both labeled "fear": behavioral and physiological fear responses elicited by threats, such as a snake or a mugger, and conscious feelings of fear, which occur in the same situation but are controlled by a different brain system.

"The problem is not the terms but the way we use them," LeDoux writes. "Specifically, problems arise when we conflate terms that refer to conscious experiences with those that refer to the processing of stimuli and control of responses and assume that the brain mechanisms that underlie the two kinds of processes are the same."

The fundamental shortcoming of this confusion, LeDoux observes, is rampant. Findings about the brain circuits that control the behavioral and physiological responses are assumed to explain how humans experience fear.

"People with anxiety disorders are bothered by the fear and anxiety that they consciously experience," LeDoux says in an accompanying published interview with PNAS. "If we claim we are studying human feelings of fear or anxiety when we measure defense responses, we are giving a false impression. This has significant implications for psychiatry that should be more clearly specified.

"For example, a number of treatments for people with fear and anxiety disorders are the result of animal work. These treatments change the way implicit systems operate and only indirectly affect conscious feelings. It may sound subtle, but the difference is important. These findings from animal studies are more relevant to behaviorally based therapies than to talk therapies."

In the PNAS essay, LeDoux calls for greater precision in how we define fear in order to enhance existing scholarship, which should lead to the creation of superior remedies.

"I am not suggesting that we banish the 'F' word from our scientific vocabulary and research," he concludes. "On the contrary, I think that we need to come to terms with fear because the conscious feeling of fear is a key part of human experience and an important factor in psychopathology.

"Neither am I suggesting that animal research is irrelevant to understanding human conscious feelings of fear. However, we need a conception that allows us to understand how non-conscious processes in other species contribute to conscious fear in humans."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by New York University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

New York University. "Understanding fear means correctly defining fear itself." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 February 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140204111810.htm>.
New York University. (2014, February 4). Understanding fear means correctly defining fear itself. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 15, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140204111810.htm
New York University. "Understanding fear means correctly defining fear itself." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140204111810.htm (accessed April 15, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) A new study out of Canada says cognitive motor performance begins deteriorating around age 24. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
App Fights Jet Lag With The Power Of Math

App Fights Jet Lag With The Power Of Math

Newsy (Apr. 13, 2014) Researchers at the University of Michigan have designed an app to fight jet lag by adjusting your body's light intake. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Treatment Gaps Endangering Cops, Mentally Ill

Treatment Gaps Endangering Cops, Mentally Ill

AP (Apr. 10, 2014) As states slash funding for mental health services, police officers are interacting more than ever with people suffering from schizophrenia and other serious disorders of the mind. The consequences can be deadly. (April 10) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Teen Drinking Rates Linked To Alcohol Mentions In Pop Music

Teen Drinking Rates Linked To Alcohol Mentions In Pop Music

Newsy (Apr. 9, 2014) A University of Pittsburgh study found pop music that mentions alcohol is linked to higher drinking rates among teens. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins