Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture

Emotions Conference (1 of 20) | Joseph LeDoux | Coming to Terms with Fear

Episode Summary

Emotions Conference (1 of 20) | Joseph LeDoux | Coming to Terms with Fear

Episode Notes

Research on Pavlovian fear conditioning has been very successful in revealing what has come to be called the “fear system” of the brain.  The field has now matured to the point where a sharper conceptualization of what is being studied could be very useful as we go forward. Terms like “fear conditioning” and “fear system” blur the distinction between processes that give rise to conscious feelings of fear and non-conscious processes that control defense responses elicited by threats. These processes interact but are not the same. This is an important distinction because symptoms based on conscious and non-conscious processes may be vulnerable to different predisposing factors and may also be treatable with different approaches in people who suffer from uncontrolled fear or anxiety. Using terms that respect the distinction will help focus future animal research on brain circuits that detect and respond to threats, and should also help clarify the implications of this work for understanding how normal and pathological feelings of fear come about in the human brain. (February 11, 2016)