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Dissecting the Neural Circuitry of Fear

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the evolved-incentives-to-change-your-pants dept.

Medicine 123

al0ha writes "Fear begins in your brain, and it is there — specifically in an almond-shaped structure called the amygdala — that it is controlled, processed, and let out of the gate to kick off the rest of the fear response. In this week's issue of the journal Nature, a research team led by scientists at the California Institute of Technology has taken an important step toward understanding just how this kickoff occurs by beginning to dissect the neural circuitry of fear. In their paper (abstract), these scientists ... describe a microcircuit in the amygdala that controls, or 'gates,' the outflow of fear from that region of the brain. The microcircuit in question, [Professor David J. Anderson] explains, contains two subtypes of neurons that are antagonistic — have opposing functions — and that control the level of fear output from the amygdala by acting like a seesaw. 'Imagine that one end of a seesaw is weighted and normally sits on a garden hose, preventing water — in this analogy, the fear impulse — from flowing through it,' says Anderson. 'When a signal that triggers a fear response arrives, it presses down on the opposite end of the seesaw, lifting the first end off the hose and allowing fear, like water, to flow.' Once the flow of fear has begun, that impulse can be transmitted to other regions of the brain that control fearful behavior, such as freezing in place."

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Your official guide to the Jigaboo Presidency (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34207724)

Congratulations on your purchase of a brand new nigger! If handled properly, your apeman will give years of valuable, if reluctant, service.

INSTALLING YOUR NIGGER.
You should install your nigger differently according to whether you have purchased the field or house model. Field niggers work best in a serial configuration, i.e. chained together. Chain your nigger to another nigger immediately after unpacking it, and don't even think about taking that chain off, ever. Many niggers start singing as soon as you put a chain on them. This habit can usually be thrashed out of them if nipped in the bud. House niggers work best as standalone units, but should be hobbled or hamstrung to prevent attempts at escape. At this stage, your nigger can also be given a name. Most owners use the same names over and over, since niggers become confused by too much data. Rufus, Rastus, Remus, Toby, Carslisle, Carlton, Hey-You!-Yes-you!, Yeller, Blackstar, and Sambo are all effective names for your new buck nigger. If your nigger is a ho, it should be called Latrelle, L'Tanya, or Jemima. Some owners call their nigger hoes Latrine for a joke. Pearl, Blossom, and Ivory are also righteous names for nigger hoes. These names go straight over your nigger's head, by the way.

CONFIGURING YOUR NIGGER
Owing to a design error, your nigger comes equipped with a tongue and vocal chords. Most niggers can master only a few basic human phrases with this apparatus - "muh dick" being the most popular. However, others make barking, yelping, yapping noises and appear to be in some pain, so you should probably call a vet and have him remove your nigger's tongue. Once de-tongued your nigger will be a lot happier - at least, you won't hear it complaining anywhere near as much. Niggers have nothing interesting to say, anyway. Many owners also castrate their niggers for health reasons (yours, mine, and that of women, not the nigger's). This is strongly recommended, and frankly, it's a mystery why this is not done on the boat

HOUSING YOUR NIGGER.
Your nigger can be accommodated in cages with stout iron bars. Make sure, however, that the bars are wide enough to push pieces of nigger food through. The rule of thumb is, four niggers per square yard of cage. So a fifteen foot by thirty foot nigger cage can accommodate two hundred niggers. You can site a nigger cage anywhere, even on soft ground. Don't worry about your nigger fashioning makeshift shovels out of odd pieces of wood and digging an escape tunnel under the bars of the cage. Niggers never invented the shovel before and they're not about to now. In any case, your nigger is certainly too lazy to attempt escape. As long as the free food holds out, your nigger is living better than it did in Africa, so it will stay put. Buck niggers and hoe niggers can be safely accommodated in the same cage, as bucks never attempt sex with black hoes.

FEEDING YOUR NIGGER.
Your Nigger likes fried chicken, corn bread, and watermelon. You should therefore give it none of these things because its lazy ass almost certainly doesn't deserve it. Instead, feed it on porridge with salt, and creek water. Your nigger will supplement its diet with whatever it finds in the fields, other niggers, etc. Experienced nigger owners sometimes push watermelon slices through the bars of the nigger cage at the end of the day as a treat, but only if all niggers have worked well and nothing has been stolen that day. Mike of the Old Ranch Plantation reports that this last one is a killer, since all niggers steal something almost every single day of their lives. He reports he doesn't have to spend much on free watermelon for his niggers as a result. You should never allow your nigger meal breaks while at work, since if it stops work for more than ten minutes it will need to be retrained. You would be surprised how long it takes to teach a nigger to pick cotton. You really would. Coffee beans? Don't ask. You have no idea.

MAKING YOUR NIGGER WORK.
Niggers are very, very averse to work of any kind. The nigger's most prominent anatomical feature, after all, its oversized buttocks, which have evolved to make it more comfortable for your nigger to sit around all day doing nothing for its entire life. Niggers are often good runners, too, to enable them to sprint quickly in the opposite direction if they see work heading their way. The solution to this is to *dupe* your nigger into working. After installation, encourage it towards the cotton field with blows of a wooden club, fence post, baseball bat, etc., and then tell it that all that cotton belongs to a white man, who won't be back until tomorrow. Your nigger will then frantically compete with the other field niggers to steal as much of that cotton as it can before the white man returns. At the end of the day, return your nigger to its cage and laugh at its stupidity, then repeat the same trick every day indefinitely. Your nigger comes equipped with the standard nigger IQ of 75 and a memory to match, so it will forget this trick overnight. Niggers can start work at around 5am. You should then return to bed and come back at around 10am. Your niggers can then work through until around 10pm or whenever the light fades.

ENTERTAINING YOUR NIGGER.
Your nigger enjoys play, like most animals, so you should play with it regularly. A happy smiling nigger works best. Games niggers enjoy include: 1) A good thrashing: every few days, take your nigger's pants down, hang it up by its heels, and have some of your other niggers thrash it with a club or whip. Your nigger will signal its intense enjoyment by shrieking and sobbing. 2) Lynch the nigger: niggers are cheap and there are millions more where yours came from. So every now and then, push the boat out a bit and lynch a nigger.

Lynchings are best done with a rope over the branch of a tree, and niggers just love to be lynched. It makes them feel special. Make your other niggers watch. They'll be so grateful, they'll work harder for a day or two (and then you can lynch another one). 3) Nigger dragging: Tie your nigger by one wrist to the tow bar on the back of suitable vehicle, then drive away at approximately 50mph. Your nigger's shrieks of enjoyment will be heard for miles. It will shriek until it falls apart. To prolong the fun for the nigger, do *NOT* drag him by his feet, as his head comes off too soon. This is painless for the nigger, but spoils the fun. Always wear a seatbelt and never exceed the speed limit. 4) Playing on the PNL: a variation on (2), except you can lynch your nigger out in the fields, thus saving work time. Niggers enjoy this game best if the PNL is operated by a man in a tall white hood. 5) Hunt the nigger: a variation of Hunt the Slipper, but played outdoors, with Dobermans. WARNING: do not let your Dobermans bite a nigger, as they are highly toxic.

DISPOSAL OF DEAD NIGGERS.
Niggers die on average at around 40, which some might say is 40 years too late, but there you go. Most people prefer their niggers dead, in fact. When yours dies, report the license number of the car that did the drive-by shooting of your nigger. The police will collect the nigger and dispose of it for you.

COMMON PROBLEMS WITH NIGGERS - MY NIGGER IS VERY AGGRESIVE
Have it put down, for god's sake. Who needs an uppity nigger? What are we, short of niggers or something?

MY NIGGER KEEPS RAPING WHITE WOMEN
They all do this. Shorten your nigger's chain so it can't reach any white women, and arm heavily any white women who might go near it.

WILL MY NIGGER ATTACK ME?
Not unless it outnumbers you 20 to 1, and even then, it's not likely. If niggers successfully overthrew their owners, they'd have to sort out their own food. This is probably why nigger uprisings were nonexistent (until some fool gave them rights).

MY NIGGER BITCHES ABOUT ITS "RIGHTS" AND "RACISM".
Yeah, well, it would. Tell it to shut the fuck up.

MY NIGGER'S HIDE IS A FUNNY COLOR. - WHAT IS THE CORRECT SHADE FOR A NIGGER?
A nigger's skin is actually more or less transparent. That brown color you can see is the shit your nigger is full of. This is why some models of nigger are sold as "The Shitskin".

MY NIGGER ACTS LIKE A NIGGER, BUT IS WHITE.
What you have there is a "wigger". Rough crowd. WOW!

IS THAT LIKE AN ALBINO? ARE THEY RARE?
They're as common as dog shit and about as valuable. In fact, one of them was President between 1992 and 2000. Put your wigger in a cage with a few hundred genuine niggers and you'll soon find it stops acting like a nigger. However, leave it in the cage and let the niggers dispose of it. The best thing for any wigger is a dose of TNB.

MY NIGGER SMELLS REALLY BAD
And you were expecting what?

SHOULD I STORE MY DEAD NIGGER?
When you came in here, did you see a sign that said "Dead nigger storage"? .That's because there ain't no goddamn sign.

Now that you know how fear works (5, Funny)

MRe_nl (306212) | more than 3 years ago | (#34207752)

Please put your hand in this little box...

Re:Now that you know how fear works (2, Funny)

Tickety-boo (1206428) | more than 3 years ago | (#34207832)

I'm afraid I can't do that.

Re:Now that you know how fear works (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34207896)

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain

Re:Now that you know how fear works (5, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#34208442)

Fear is good. Fear is healthy. Fear keeps you alive. A person without fear would rapidly become dead, as there would be nothing preventing them from taking crazy risks. And if you say someone can make a rational appraisal of risks, I am telling that a person doing such a rational appraisal will wander into traffic in their fearlessness while they are doing their cognitive calculations.

When people identify fear as a negative impulse, they are actually complaining about things that stupid people fear, which are usually artificial constructs, and are usually controlled by fearmongering demagogues spreading propaganda for political purposes. Yes, this is wrong, but fear is only a piece of that puzzle, and not even the lynchpin.

Fear itself is not wrong, only what stupid people fear is wrong. I have fears in my life, and I'm glad I do. It keeps me alive, it even motivates me. It would be a shame to disregard such potent neural circuitry just because of some political hangups that have nothing to do with you.

Re:Now that you know how fear works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34208686)

Fear vs. Knowledge confusion. As a spiritual teacher once said - you don't _need_ fear to not put your hand in fire - just the knowledge and consciousness to apply the knowledge is sufficient.

Re:Now that you know how fear works (1)

thijsh (910751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34209008)

Great quote, who is it attributed to?

Re:Now that you know how fear works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34209668)

I believe Eckhart Tolle said something very similar in response to a question in his book Power of Now.

Re:Now that you know how fear works (4, Interesting)

swillden (191260) | more than 3 years ago | (#34209218)

Fear itself is not wrong, only what stupid people fear is wrong. I have fears in my life, and I'm glad I do. It keeps me alive, it even motivates me.

Absolutely. Fear guides our actions in many ways, and generally for the better. Applied properly, it can help us make quick decisions with sufficient accuracy in situations where there simply isn't time to apply rational analysis. The decisions aren't always as good as rational decisions would be, but they're generally not too far off, and often doing nothing is even worse than doing something that isn't quite right.

For example, I teach concealed weapon permit courses, and one of the major challenges faced by any rational, law-abiding person who decides to carry a deadly weapon is to learn how to decide under what circumstances they should use it. In the course I cover the ins and outs of the law, but there's no way anyone can apply that knowledge in the split second available during a possibly-deadly encounter. It's too complex and too abstract.

So in addition to the law, I teach people to train themselves to use their fear, to assume that if they draw and fire their gun they will go to prison for it, and so they should only use it in circumstances where they fear the consequences of not shooting even more than that. This "balance of opposing fears" is something that can be done on an emotional level -- with "the gut" --, and it can be done very quickly. Not to mention the fact that the standard of justification in the law is based on the presence of "reasonable fear", so if you're a reasonable person and you have a great fear, then you should be legally justified when the DA and/or jury gets around to weighing your actions against the minutiae of the law.

Of course, some people are more afraid of prison than of dying, so it might not be a good standard for them.

(Aside: This being slashdot, I know I'm going to get some responses saying that anyone who wants to carry a gun already has a broken "fear sense", but that's simply untrue. I have taught many, many people and the only ones I've met who decide to carry out of a sense of fear really DO have reason to fear -- mostly women with dangerous and unstable exes. Mostly, people who decide to carry do it more out of a sense of determination that they do not want to be a victim. Not that they think they're likely to be victims, but they see it as a reasonable precaution, much like having a fire extinguisher in their car and house.)

Re:Now that you know how fear works (3, Insightful)

seven of five (578993) | more than 3 years ago | (#34209634)

As someone who's struggled for decades with irrational and useless phobias, I really wish my fear had an off-switch. I would've gotten a lot more enjoyment out of life, and saved a lot in therapy bills and medications. It's an adaptation that kept our ancestors alive, but now it's mostly baggage.

Re:Now that you know how fear works (2, Interesting)

radtea (464814) | more than 3 years ago | (#34209684)

Fear is good. Fear is healthy. Fear keeps you alive.

Which fear is that?

Your post, and the others here praising fear, are excellent examples of innumeracy: you treat the world as it existed in real binary categorical terms "fearful" and "fearless".

The real world is a bit more floating point than that.

I suffer from a deficit of physical fear, yet I am still manifestly alive.

I routinely judge things based on rational probabilities. I once walked out into a fairly busy highway to remove some debris that had forced me to swerve. I could see from basic kinematics I had plenty of time to get out there, get the thing (a large piece of somebody's bumper, as it turned out) and get back without significant risk. So I did so. The person I was with was beside herself with fear on my behalf.

Incidents like this eventually convinced me that I was physiologically defficient in this regard, and made me more aware of the importance of rational risk-estimation in my life. But I am now nearing my second half-century, and still not dead.

The interesting question to me is: would most people be better off with LESS fear in their lives, or MORE?

Today, I'd argue strongly for less, across the board, so that fear was just one of many mild emotional impulses that people could take into account when choosing actions, rather than an apparently unanswerable motivation to do all manner of stupid things.

Re:Now that you know how fear works (2, Interesting)

eggstasy (458692) | more than 3 years ago | (#34210616)

You can probably get by without fear in a nanny state ruled by the fearful masses, where everything has to be made perfectly safe, but try doing that in the jungles of your ancestors, where danger awaited around every corner...

Fear that affected the democrats? (1)

malakai (136531) | more than 3 years ago | (#34210632)

Fear is good. Fear is healthy. Fear keeps you alive.

Which fear is that?

This one?

"Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we're hardwired not to always think clearly when we're scared,” Obama said Saturday evening in remarks at a small Democratic fundraiser Saturday evening. “And the country's scared.”
-President Barack Obama

If fear is the reason the house has switched from democratic to republican control, I for one welcome our new fear based society.....

Re:Now that you know how fear works (1)

hrimhari (1241292) | more than 3 years ago | (#34209848)

When people identify fear as a negative impulse, they are actually complaining about things that stupid people fear, which are usually artificial constructs, and are usually controlled by fearmongering demagogues spreading propaganda for political purposes.

I knew those spiders were up to no good!!!

Re:Now that you know how fear works (2, Insightful)

bar-agent (698856) | more than 3 years ago | (#34210174)

Fear is good. Fear is healthy. Fear keeps you alive. ... Fear itself is not wrong, only what stupid people fear is wrong. I have fears in my life, and I'm glad I do.

Yes. The litany the GP posted, below, is not about denying fear, but rather about keeping control when the fear instinct would get you killed. Paul Atreides was being tested. He had to keep his hand in the box even though it felt like his hand was being burned/shredded/destroyed; if he removed his hand, he'd get stuck with the poisoned needle and die. He knew (or could figure out) that his hand was not actually being destroyed. The litany was to clear away the unnecessary fear of losing his hand, so that he could concentrate on dealing with the pain and keeping his hand in place.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

Re:Now that you know how fear works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34209188)

Great litany.

"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love."

1st John 4:18

Fear is natural and comes naturally (i.e. without effort) to the natural man. In contrast, the man who entrusts his life to God has no cause, need or circumstance of fear, as though anything could snatch him from God's hand. I am not yet this man, but I believe it to be true. I believe it to be true because of reason. I would expect no less than the complete absence of fear in the presence of and submission to an almighty being.

Re:Now that you know how fear works (1)

Raenex (947668) | more than 3 years ago | (#34209348)

How ironic then that the God of the Bible often rules through fear.

Re:Now that you know how fear works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34210028)

Do you have a specific example in mind?

Re:Now that you know how fear works (1)

thijsh (910751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34208268)

Wasn't that how pain works? I believe it was the prospect of death by Gom Jabbar that instills the fear in the subject.

Re:Now that you know how fear works (1)

MRe_nl (306212) | more than 3 years ago | (#34208740)

But the pain was "illusionary", the test was about overcoming your fear and resisting the urge to remove your hand. Or that's how I remember it anyhow.

Re:Now that you know how fear works (1)

thijsh (910751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34208982)

Pain and the illusion of pain are the same, pain is a strangely psychologically influenced phenomenon. What you mean is that it gave the impression that your hand was burning while it actually wasn't... but the pain was very real!

Re:Now that you know how fear works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34210102)

At least I'm quite confident there's no cat in this box. Unless ... oh, wait!

Remove it! (4, Interesting)

falldeaf (968657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34207768)

I wonder if the repercussions of removing the amygdala completely would be catastrophic to the person. In a society where we don't necessarily have direct predators, would a fearless person be more bold and have less stress? I wouldn't mind a boost in either of those traits. :)

Re:Remove it! (2, Interesting)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34207864)

Look,

They just want raw, killer soldiers - who won't come back with either PTSD or a human soul.

This is the kind of research that begins looking lie rational inquiry into the determining mechanisms of everyday psychology, and ends in horrors.

Re:Remove it! (1)

dintech (998802) | more than 3 years ago | (#34207972)

It would be interesting to discover if soldiers do the right thing because they are good or because they are afraid of the consequences. Next stop insubordination and war crimes.

Re:Remove it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34208084)

Could be quite a few other drawbacks as well. In some cases fearless soldiers could be useful, like say if you have a chinese sized population. However if casualties are problematic, then a bit of fear is still good. Not to mention the fear response also generates addrenaline, A soldier that can walk fearlessly through a barrage of mortors may be a good thing, but a soldier who fears but pushes through, is more likely to succesfully dodge while moving foward.

Even if you do have unlimited soldiers and consider human life a negligable cost, brain surgery isn't usually cheap, nor is the equipment the average soldier is carrying.

Re:Remove it! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34208194)

Did you mean "stop insubordination"? If yes, you should read about "Miligrams Experiment"

Re:Remove it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34209084)

Sorry, I meant "Next stop, insubordination and war crimes". I was wondering if fear and morality are connected or at least correlate to the same outcomes.

Tangentially, I've always been fascinated by that experiment. I wonder if the outcome would be different if the testee had no fear. Both of their superior and of killing. I would assume that it would depend entirely on the morality of the test subject.

Re:Remove it! (1)

bar-agent (698856) | more than 3 years ago | (#34210372)

I wonder if the outcome would be different if the testee had no fear. Both of their superior and of killing. I would assume that it would depend entirely on the morality of the test subject.

I would be very surprised if this amygdala circuitry dealt with social fears that may have factored in to the Milgram Experiment. By "social fears," I mean fears of being ostracized or punished for criminal behavior, disobedience, or failing to meet expectations. I feel those fears differently from how I feel physical fight-or-flight fears.

Re:Remove it! (1)

radtea (464814) | more than 3 years ago | (#34209920)

I'm not sure what you mean by "do the right thing"... but if you mean "obey orders" then I'm pretty sure you'll find that as fear is reduced so is obedience.

But you have to think this through at all levels: if fear is sufficiently muted there would be no war and therefore no soldiers. Wars are a product of the way humans use violence to induce fear in others and reduce fear in themselves.

It isn't clear what kind of society humans would be capable of sustaining without fear. We would be more mobile, more independent, less obedient to authority, more likely to be kind to each other, and more likely to get hurt in a variety of ways.

If you reduce fear enough you would not wind up with human beings who are exactly like everyone else but fearless. You would wind up with a species that was not recognizably human.

Re:Remove it! (1)

sorak (246725) | more than 3 years ago | (#34209176)

Look,

They just want raw, killer soldiers - who won't come back with either PTSD or a human soul.

This is the kind of research that begins looking lie rational inquiry into the determining mechanisms of everyday psychology, and ends in horrors.

If it happens, blame the gunman, not the gun.

Re:Remove it! (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34210294)

Sorak is a Vulcan name - but backwards it's Klingon...

Re:Remove it! (1)

Philomage (1851668) | more than 3 years ago | (#34209734)

If you'd watched Firefly, you'd be all over this, including the stripping the amygdala thing to eliminate fear and create monsters...

Isn't it amazing how science fiction can be used to investigate the dilemas of human existence?

Re:Remove it! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34207894)

removing the amygdala completely

It's not worth it, trust me.

-River Tam

PS: Also, I can kill you with my brain.

Re:Remove it! (1)

rastilin (752802) | more than 3 years ago | (#34207906)

That's a good point, they probably would be bolder and have less stress. I wonder if they might also end up dead faster from bad judgements; like attempting things they're unskilled at that have large negative outcomes (driving on an icy road, attacking a mugger without training or a weapon)? What I would love to see is a drug that lets you suppress a dose-Dependant chunk of your fear for a period of time. Would that still allow you to instinctively protect yourself while letting you take fairly consequence free risks?

Re:Remove it! (1)

falldeaf (968657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34208108)

That's a good point, they probably would be bolder and have less stress. I wonder if they might also end up dead faster from bad judgements; like attempting things they're unskilled at that have large negative outcomes (driving on an icy road, attacking a mugger without training or a weapon)? What I would love to see is a drug that lets you suppress a dose-Dependant chunk of your fear for a period of time. Would that still allow you to instinctively protect yourself while letting you take fairly consequence free risks?

Exactly, that would be incredibly interesting to find out about. And being able to lessen fear response instead of removing it would mitigate risk for the individual.

Re:Remove it! (1)

brainboyz (114458) | more than 3 years ago | (#34207926)

Fear reduction and removal would be completely different. Fear is part of the indicator that keeps you from repeating dumb mistakes. If you walk into the road w/o looking and almost get hit by a car, you'll probably be more cautious next time. W/o fear, you'd probably walk blindly into the road regardless of what happened last time unless you were actually thinking about it. Fear is that safety meter you want intact.

Re:Remove it! (2, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34207932)

Fear is necessary to function in all levels of society - not just fear of death. I need to fear losing my job in order to keep me from yelling at my boss. I need to fear the slap of a women before I drop the worst pickup lines of the century. I need to fear the reprocussions of the law before I go rob a bank.

A "Fearless" person would have no place in our world. Sometimes it is fear which drives us to do the right course of action.

Re:Remove it! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34208028)

Indeed, it has been shown that many serial killers have a lower or muted sense of fear (startle response, etc).

Also, ask a bipolar person about the stupid shit they do in their mania state (which can override emotions like fear).

I once took an SSRI antidepressant and it removed nearly all emotion from me, including fear. It was unpleasant and extraordinarily dangerous to say the least.

Re:Remove it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34209208)

I was prescribed Dilaudid (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydromorphone) when I had an abscess of a wisdom tooth. It had just the opposite affect on me that it caused me to fear everything.

I gave the prescription back to the oral surgeon and told him that I didn't even want it in my house, the fear was so bad.

Nathan

Re:Remove it! (1)

falldeaf (968657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34208050)

See, I wonder about this idea. I understand your point and it's true that I would feel fear at the idea of slapping someone I was mad at but I don't think that's the reason I restrain myself. There's plenty of rational reasons not to run into the middle of the street or slap your boss. This argument kind of reminds me of the religious argument that without a god giving laws there's no reason to be moral or lawful, when in my opinion there are many rational reasons for both. (I'm not trying to lump you in with religious folks or start a religion flameware here, though) Now, whether or not the rational reasons would truly not push me in the right direction I can't say, I've never had the benefit of the experience of having zero fear.

Re:Remove it! (2, Interesting)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34208130)

I agree with your point - even without fear you would still have your rational logic (supposedly, we don't know exactly what would happen when you remove this chunk of the brain).

But assuming that you DO still have logical reasoning and you think "It's in my best interest to NOT rob a bank" - at what point do you then get a benefit by removing the gland? Essentially fear is designed to help your survival - it's not always right - like the deer in headlights freezing when something is heading your way, but that's essentially your body saying "Something you are doing something wrong, STOP" but usually by then its too late. Taking it away doesn't seem to have any real benefits - I don't see how it would reduce stress (if you are still tasked with making difficult decisions) since you don't always come across life-or-death situations everyday.

Like someone else posted, there are horror movies, roller coasters, video games, etc, a whole bunch of things designed you give you the fear-reaction in a safe environment. By removing that ability you're essentially removing some of the things you can enjoy in life.

Re:Remove it! (1)

falldeaf (968657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34208252)

That's actually a really good point, I'm not a horror movie buff or anything but I do really enjoy some fear inducing activities. I went sky diving a couple years back and it was really incredible. Interestingly though, I don't remember feeling any fear or nervousness during the experience because of a combination of things. I think I knew rationally that there was minimal danger and I also happened to be going through a bad break-up and up until the moment I was falling It was pretty much the only thing on my mind. I wonder if I would still have enjoyed the experience without the ability to feel fear.

Re:Remove it! (1)

witherby (976998) | more than 3 years ago | (#34210264)

I definitely agree. I'm not so sure that you'd be able to reason properly without fear, though. I can't remember the specifics, but I read a case a couple years ago about test subjects who through some kind of brain injury had lost the ability to feel emotion. They were not only emotionally numbed, but also logically and rationally impaired.

Here [mybrainnotes.com] 's a site devoted to more-or-less the same thing.

"'In Animals in Translation, Grandin and Johnson write: "We humans tend to think of emotions as dangerous forces that need to be strictly controlled by reason and logic. But that's not how the brain works. In the brain logic and reason are never separate from emotion. Even nonsense syllables have an emotional charge, either positive or negative. Nothing is neutral.'"

Granted, this is based on the assumption that fear is a functionally similar psychological/physiochemical response to say, grief and joy, but I could definitely see how you might begin to argue that without the ability to feel fear, you'd lose some of that rational cognitive ability as well.

Re:Remove it! (1)

19thNervousBreakdown (768619) | more than 3 years ago | (#34208174)

You don't need to fear a consequence to not desire it, or more strongly, desire not having that consequence.

I feel no fear standing on a curb next to a busy freeway, but I know that if I jump out into traffic, I will likely be killed or maimed. I do not want to be killed or maimed, therefore I don't jump out into traffic no matter how much I don't want to wait to cross the road. It's more than possible to make rational self-preservation decisions, it's done all the time.

A child might need fear to stop from crossing the road or yelling at their boss, but an adult shouldn't. I think maybe you're thinking of a more abstract form of fear than what your brain squeezes out when you get that jolt or nauseous feeling in your stomach. If you feel actual fear at woman's slap, I feel sorry for you.

I have, however, seen fear absolutely destroy people. Just yesterday, I watched someone argue the wrong point here at work because they feared looking dumb--there was no rationality about it, he was flat wrong, and when I talked to him later in a much less antagonistic way than the person he was originally arguing with, he saw it my way. Sometimes, people don't have someone to give them an "out" so they'll let that fear run them right into the ground even when they know they're wrong. I've seen fear of rejection turn people into bitter, lonely people, and fear of failure turn people into people who never try anything.

Finally, being fearless doesn't mean being amoral. I don't not rape everything in sight because I fear the repercussions, I don't rape because it's a horrific thing to do to a person.

Lacking fear would suck when it's time to run from a bear, or stay awake all night to guard against zombies, but honestly ask yourself when the last time that jab in the gut really helped you out in today's society?

Re:Remove it! (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34208304)

Lacking fear would suck when it's time to run from a bear, or stay awake all night to guard against zombies, but honestly ask yourself when the last time that jab in the gut really helped you out in today's society?

Thats where your logic falls apart - the fear would not help you run from a bear or survive with Zombies anymore than it would keep you from running across the street - your logic of holding your rational decisions without fear would hold true in any scenario - in which case, you might think that living entirely without fear would be beneficial - all you seem to observe from fear is the irrational decisions that people make because of fear.

Ask myself when the last time the jab of the gut helped me in today's society? Lets see.
Last summer driving on the highway when I was really tired - I almost hit a deer. Fear quickly caused that gut reaction which caused me to swerve and miss colliding with the animal.

A few months ago I was on top of a ladder and I felt it slide along the wall, which caused a quick fear that instantly pushed my focus towards how to get off without getting hurt, where I noticed a ledge a bit further down which I jumped to instead to lessen the distance I fell.

I could go on - I know I could find more examples. From a strictly survival point of view - Fear works. If you don't include the fear of everyday reprisal - then removing the gland isn't going to remove any stress associated with it. I merely included it because I figure taking out that chunk of your brain is likely to cause more issues than just the survival-fear reaction. I'm not a doctor and definately not a neuroscientist so perhaps that was a bold assumption to make.

All in all, its just not a good idea.

Re:Remove it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34210202)

Fear conditions an avoidant response, so you avoid stupid and dangerous scenarios to avoid feeling fear in the first place. You can cognitively work out something would be harmful to yourself without feeling that fear actively, even if it's not the exact same stimulus (your brain can generalize), but at some point, the psychological conditioning had to have taken place.

Re:Remove it! (1)

mdielmann (514750) | more than 3 years ago | (#34208286)

I need to fear the slap of a women before I drop the worst pickup lines of the century.

I thought it was the desire to get laid that prevented that.

Re:Remove it! (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34209542)

No, you just need to be more rational about your boss and your personality.

Fear is an irrational cause for your actions, whether they are beneficial or not. It will lead you to do the wrong thing as easily as the right thing. Rationality can not, as long as you have the necessary information and know right from wrong.

Re:Remove it! (1)

elsurexiste (1758620) | more than 3 years ago | (#34207954)

Indeed, they are catastrophic. I would gamble that you would become a robot devoid of emotion processing and recalling. The amygdala is much more than fear processing.

Re:Remove it! (1)

artfulshrapnel (1893096) | more than 3 years ago | (#34207964)

I'm guessing there would be a number of strange and unpleasant side effects. The fact that many people in industrialized nations are "fear seekers" (horror movies, roller coasters, extreme sports, videogames, etc.) suggests that there is an inherent desire/need in the human brain to feel fear on a regular basis. With a complete inability to feel fear, it's reasonable to assume a person would become dangerously unstable. Might manifest either as adrenaline junkie tendencies, or as some sort of dissociative disorder. Also, I have a feeling they would die very quickly due to something like: - Walking across a busy intersection trying to pull a "frogger" - Travelling alone at night through a dangerous neighborhood - Overdosing on some sort of medication or chemical - Insulting a bunch of veterans - Attempting some sort of assassination or political uprising - ... or any number of other things we all would totally do if we weren't afraid of the consequences.

Re: Fear Seekers (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#34208766)

I'm not so sure.

Lots of stuff in our minds are multiplexed, and there's a word I can't think of right now for "inefficient medicine" such as drinking an energy drink for the energy because it's nice rather than taking a boring pill.

The Dopamine Cycle is all scrambled up in this, and it's not at all clear if we do those activities *to feel fear* or *get a dopamine burst*.

Re:Remove it! (1)

toxonix (1793960) | more than 3 years ago | (#34208070)

You'd pretty much be a vegetable without them. There are no isolated components of the brain AFAIK. Removing or damaging anything will have multiple effects. If you damage the amygdala, you might lose the fear response. You'd also lose the ability to form long term memories. You'd lose any notion of protecting yourself from harm of any kind. You'd allow people to abuse you, and have no emotional response to the abuse or fear of it. It would be terrible, but you would have no clue.

Re:Remove it! (1)

falldeaf (968657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34208162)

Hmm, being a vegetable would probably be pretty stress free but I don't think I've ever considered a carrot bold... well, unless it's used as an ingrediant in a spicy carrot cake.

Re:Remove it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34208214)

First, think of how people behave every day with regards to logic and reason. Now imagine all they had was logic and reason with no conscience or emotion (think of emotion as the guide that tells stupid and weak-minded people what to do).

It would be chaos my friend.

Re:Remove it! (1)

UpnAtom (551727) | more than 3 years ago | (#34208232)

You'd lose your sex drive too which, as a Slashdotter, might also be helpful.

Re:Remove it! (1)

precariousgray (1663153) | more than 3 years ago | (#34208342)

You might also just decide to go on a murderous rampage, being no longer fearful of life imprisonment or death. Does fear alone mitigate such behavior, or are there other factors involved?

Re:Remove it! (1)

falldeaf (968657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34208430)

That's really hard to say... I feel like the rational reasons not to go on a murderous rampage are *more* of a reason than the fear of punishment. But is fear subconciously the true driver, regardlesss? Who knows?

Re:Remove it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34208436)

I wonder if the repercussions of removing the amygdala completely would be catastrophic to the person. In a society where we don't necessarily have direct predators, would a fearless person be more bold and have less stress? I wouldn't mind a boost in either of those traits. :)

Fearless person would be more dead, fear guids us and stops as from doing stupid shit too often,

Re:Remove it! (1)

immakiku (777365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34208654)

How about the opposite? What are the consequences of systematically introducing low doses of fear to our daily lives? We might all become sheep. This is the kind of thing harmony-seeking governments would want to have control over.

Re:Systematic Low Dose Fear (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#34208792)

"It's a Post 9-11 World. We'll never have a carefree time again."

Personally, I find it exhausting.

Re:Remove it! (1)

ThinkWeak (958195) | more than 3 years ago | (#34208910)

Does this also control you from harming yourself in normal settings? Here are a few examples:

Getting into a shower and being tentative of the temperature. If you do not have any fear, would it even cross your mind to test the temperature or would you just step in and burn yourself?

In a military setting, would you see a lot more accidental shootings by individuals who do not turn on the safety of their gun? You usually turn the safety on to not misfire the weapon and accidentally shoot someone (ie. afraid of killing someone or afraid of the consequences of shooting someone)

Are these choices fear based? How do you differentiate between someone walking into a battlefield and not being afraid of combat versus someone burning or hurting themselves in normal daily life.

Re:Remove it! (1)

hrimhari (1241292) | more than 3 years ago | (#34210120)

Getting into a shower and being tentative of the temperature. If you do not have any fear, would it even cross your mind to test the temperature or would you just step in and burn yourself?

I don't fear the pain or the temperature. I know I don't like the pain, so I'll be cautious.

If, in the other hand, I wouldn't take a shower because I once got burned, even if I know that I can control the temperature, that would be pure fear.

In a military setting, would you see a lot more accidental shootings by individuals who do not turn on the safety of their gun? You usually turn the safety on to not misfire the weapon and accidentally shoot someone (ie. afraid of killing someone or afraid of the consequences of shooting someone)

Again, could be fear or a rational decision. "Being afraid of" is often just a figure of speech. The soldier is probably really afraid of being killed, but I'm not so sure he's really afraid of accidentally shooting someone else, except for the reaction of his peers.

People are afraid of dying, yet many would rather not wear the seat belt in cars. Others would not get out of their houses.

Are these choices fear based? How do you differentiate between someone walking into a battlefield and not being afraid of combat versus someone burning or hurting themselves in normal daily life.

You cannot tell if the battlefield guy isn't afraid of combat or if he's just able to rationalize his fear.

Here's my suggestion on how to identify each case:

Fear: a feeling. It makes your heart beat accelerate, can startle, will push you away from the situation regardless of what you think, like people who squeeze the chair's armrest during an horror movie because they think that something startling is going to happen.
Rationalization: thought process. Consciously analyzing that if A then B. You know it's just a movie.

What's important isn't when is it fear and when is it rational, but can you rationalize even when you're afraid?

Re:Remove it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34209346)

The amygdala regulates more then just fear, it is crucial for memory creation and processing of all emotions. Plastic surgery for the brain has never worked out well. Just ask some drooling fool who has been lobotomized.

Re:Remove it! (2, Informative)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 3 years ago | (#34209644)

The amygdala has other neurological functions, including regulating/originating aggression. (there is LOTS of literature on that one.) It also plays a significant role in the retention of emotional memories, and emotional states.

Removal of the amygdala would be very bad for humans. It would result in a kind of severe autism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amygdala [wikipedia.org]

Re:Remove it! (1)

Stregano (1285764) | more than 3 years ago | (#34210460)

Go ahead and remove yours. When the zombie apocalypse happens, you will be the guy without fear running into a crowd of zombies distracting them while I run away

Yoda says... (3, Funny)

intellitech (1912116) | more than 3 years ago | (#34207778)

Fear is the path to the dark side.

Re:Yoda says... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34207882)

Wasn't Senator Amygdala the reason Anakin fell to the Dark Side?

Re:Yoda says... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34210232)

I'm pretty sure it was the cookies.

Autism? (3, Interesting)

AltGrendel (175092) | more than 3 years ago | (#34207836)

I wonder if they'll try the same techniques to study Autism?

Fox News. (4, Funny)

Xoltri (1052470) | more than 3 years ago | (#34207854)

That's funny, I thought fear response was controlled by Fox News.

Re:Fox News. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34208248)

Glen Beck, specifically.

Re:Fox News. (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34209576)

He's just got the button. His viewers still have the ignitors in them.

Another tool in the box of TSA... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34207902)

I bet this stuff is in part if not totally funded by the Homeland Security group of the US governmint. Just another tool in their belt of manipulation, go Team USA! Yah!

worrying (2, Interesting)

mlong (160620) | more than 3 years ago | (#34207930)

I wonder how this applies to worriers? Like the people afraid of every possible thing that could wrong. And what part of the brain controls more general fears like the fear of death?

Re:worrying (3, Interesting)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34208064)

Couldn't that be described as a "chemical inbalance" in the brain? As in, the the see-saw isn't pinching the hose enough to turn it off?

Re:worrying (2, Interesting)

kent_eh (543303) | more than 3 years ago | (#34208340)

I'm more interested in what implications this has into dealing with paranoia (as in full-on psychiatric disorder, not the popular usage of the word) .
I have seen what paranoid delusions can do to a person, and it ain't pretty.

Re:worrying (2, Interesting)

butalearner (1235200) | more than 3 years ago | (#34209614)

I'm more interested in what implications this has into dealing with paranoia (as in full-on psychiatric disorder, not the popular usage of the word) . I have seen what paranoid delusions can do to a person, and it ain't pretty.

That is an interesting question. I must be a bad person, but my first thought was the opposite of most commenters:

Can we hook up electrodes and magnify fear, say, for the purposes of obtaining a confession? It's a slippery slope I admit, but I would guess that the amount of stimulation is important. Especially if you can inflict a major mental disorder on the suspect.

If this is blatant Geneva Convention-breaking torture, I apologize for my ignorance; the UN definition is so vague you could consider imprisonment a type of torture. I figure it seems far more "humane" than waterboarding at least.

Make sure you study the real amygdala. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 3 years ago | (#34207958)

Most people assume the prominent almond shaped structure in the brain is the amygdala. But the real amygdala stays in the background, pretending to be an innocuous assistant or something and communicates with the prominently placed fake amygdala through complex undetectable chemical signals. This is done for security and the protection of real amygdala. Only on very rare occasions when the fake amygdala is assasinated the real one comes forward and one realizes how well they have been fooled by these security protocols. So let us first make sure the scientists studied the real one.

Queen Amigdala (1)

Fartypants (120104) | more than 3 years ago | (#34208010)

Queen Amigdala, regulator of the Phantom Menace... There, mnemonic device sorted.

Fear is useful (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#34208088)

It keeps us from doing dangerous things. Its the response that needs to be modified. In some cases, the 'freeze' response can be retrained to be something more appropriate, like taking cover, assuming a defensive posture or running.

Fear is what keeps us from clicking that submit button before making a stupid .... [Oh crap!]

Seesaw WTF? (1)

oldmac31310 (1845668) | more than 3 years ago | (#34208218)

That seesaw/garden hose analogy is really tortured. In fact, I think it could easily induce fear in the faint hearted.

Re:Seesaw WTF? (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 3 years ago | (#34208380)

Yeah, where’s the car analogy?

Re:Seesaw WTF? (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#34209038)

It's like a garden hose stretched across the driveway. A car is parked with a wheel sitting on the hose preventing water from flowing. When a signal that triggers a fear response arrives, it releases the parking brake, letting the car roll down the driveway off the hose and allowing fear, like water, to flow. Once the flow of fear has begun, that impulse can be transmitted to other regions of the brain that control fearful behavior, such as freezing in place.

one analogy too far? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34208228)

"Imagine that one end of a seesaw is weighted and normally sits on a garden hose, preventing water"

wouldn't another analogy be to say it's like a tap?

Clint Eastwood (1)

Kreplock (1088483) | more than 3 years ago | (#34208606)

So how much would it cost to get them to re-direct my fear flow to the calm, deadly badass region of my brain?

Re:Clint Eastwood (1)

Viperpete (1261530) | more than 3 years ago | (#34209522)

I find for this this quote from Lawrence of Arabia [imdb.com] to be appropriate:

Sherif Ali: Have you no fear, English?
T.E. Lawrence: My fear is my concern.

Once you decide that you will refuse to allow you opponent to know what you feel inside you're halfway there. Then, work on your thousand yard stare [wikipedia.org] and fringe scanning. This allows you (from your opponents view) to look directly into their eyes, yet what you are really looking at is their shoulders and hips and yet you look completely impassive. I hear it is quite disconcerting.

Disclaimer: You should learn how to fight before using these techniques.

Lacking Pain (1)

handy_vandal (606174) | more than 3 years ago | (#34209032)

Lack of pain receptors is a big problem for people who suffer from the condition. You can lean on a red-hot iron and not know your flesh is scalding until you smell roast meat.

This is somewhat analogous to lack of fear. You can find yourself in very dangerous situations and not care. This may have good consequences (overcoming adversity) and bad consequences (reckless behavior, getting yourself killed).

Oriental perspective on fight-or-flight, ego, etc (1)

nido (102070) | more than 3 years ago | (#34209180)

In oriental medicine, the fight-flight-freeze response is governed by the "Triple Warmer" or "Triple Heater" meridian (pathway). Triple warmer's [TW] job is to keep a person alive, and whenever the fight-or-flight response gets activated, TW takes energy from all the body's other systems (except Heart), so that the body can fight better or run faster. TW directs the body to release a surge of adrenaline, concentrates blood at the reptilian brain [wikipedia.org] around the brainstem (forebrain/higher thought processes aren't really needed in a fight), etc.

Some people get stuck in a continuous fight-or-flight response. Nothing in the body works as well as it should if TW's always hijacking other systems' resources. If the TW pathway is calmed down, the individual is better able to come to terms with the fear that overwhelms them, chronic health problems improve, etc.

Re:Oriental perspective on fight-or-flight, ego, e (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34209608)

Good guess, some of it. But there's not much science and a good deal of mysticism in it, so it will be wrong more often than Western medicine, which isn't based on guessing as a rule.

Highly recommend... (1)

abolduc (1280626) | more than 3 years ago | (#34209216)

"How We Decide" by Jonah Lehrer. Very digestible for sciency non-scientists.

To fear is Human (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34209290)

sorry (1)

gibbson (1358569) | more than 3 years ago | (#34209616)

I thought Fear leads to hate, and hate leads to anger, and anger leads to Suffering. or maybe they're right.

this is goTat5ex (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34209620)

Ma8 walking. It's Is dying. Fact: conve8sation and

I'd be skeered too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34209696)

If a seesaw...or any kind of saw was going to come crashing down on my hose.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

The Phantom Menace (1)

TVDinner (1067340) | more than 3 years ago | (#34209914)

Amygdala..Amidala? Crap, now I know why I was so scared of Lucas ruining the franchise and the fragile memories of my youth!

Analogies (1)

bar-agent (698856) | more than 3 years ago | (#34210220)

Imagine that one end of a seesaw is weighted and normally sits on a garden hose, preventing water -- in this analogy, the fear impulse -- from flowing through it. When a signal that triggers a fear response arrives, it presses down on the opposite end of the seesaw, lifting the first end off the hose and allowing fear, like water, to flow.

I like this analogy. It is a great analogy!

But do you know what would be better? If it were about cars.

This is an easy study slashdotters can help with (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34210282)

Just put a slashdotter in front of a female homosapian and watch their fear and sweat response go into high gear as they babble of tech terms the female doesn't understand.

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