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Threat Circuits, not Fear Circuits

Image result for laboratory rats

Regular readers know of my interest in the nature and origin of emotions.

Recently I came upon a certain story about the work of a neuroscientist named Joseph LeDoux.

It seems that LeDoux tried to study fear in rodents. This meant (he thought) asking the question: what is happening in the brain of a rat when it perceives a threat? He learned a good deal about the two distinct "roads" by which news of the threat gets to the amygdala, the quicker but less informative "low road" and the slower higher-info "high road."  

BUT ... this was the part that struck me and that may be of philosophical significance ... LeDoux came in time to the conclusion that he hadn't been studying fear at all. He had been studying survival circuits and threat conditioning Such things should be named, or renamed, in a way that cleanses them of the subjective and human-centric notion that the rats are "afraid" of something merely because the sight or smell of it causes them to run the other way.

I refer you to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for more:

It seems that LeDoux has something in common with Judy Collins who, though knowing clouds from up and down, determined in the end that she never knew clouds at all.


  1. I haven't read the link, but I think it safe to assume that humans as well as rats respond to threats as a result of survival circuits and threat conditioning. The difference between humans and rats is that only humans fool themselves into believing that subjective fear prompts them to respond to threats by the exercise of free will.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Please "Donnie Christopher," do not attempt to use the comment section of my blog as a marketing tool. Craigs List is that-a-way.


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