As Soon as There Is Life, There Is Danger
Presented by Joseph E. LeDoux, PhD, Center for Neural Science, New York University, Emotional Brain Institute NYU & Nathan Kline Institute
Organisms face challenges to survival throughout life. When we freeze or flee in danger, we often feel fear. Tracing the deep history of danger gives a different perspective. The first cells living billions of years ago had to detect and respond to danger in order to survive.
Life is about not being dead, and behavior is a major way that organisms hold death off. Although behavior does not require a nervous system, complex organisms have brain circuits for detecting and responding to danger, the deep roots of which go back to the first cells. But these circuits do not make fear, and fear is not the cause of why we freeze or flee. Fear is a human invention, a construct we use to account for what happens in our minds when we become aware that we are in harm’s way. This requires a brain that can personally know that it exists at the moment, that its body is the entity that might be harmed in the present situation, and that someday it will cease to exist.
- Critically review the broadly accepted idea of fear as an innate state inherited from animal ancestors
- Demonstrate how the conventional view of fear has impeded the development of more effective treatments
- Present an alternative view of fear, its neural underpinnings, and its value in rethinking fear and anxiety in terms of symptoms that are products of specific circuits
About the Visiting Professor Lecture Series:
The Child Mind Institute Visiting Professor Lecture Series invites leaders in the field of child and adolescent mental health to talk about the latest research and treatment protocols. All events are open to the public. This year, all lectures will be hosted virtually over GoToWebinar. Continuing medical education (CME) credits for psychiatrists and continuing education (CE) credits for psychologists are through our partnership with Northwell Health.