Infographic: Anticipation Versus Confrontation

The brain is activated differently when it’s contemplating, rather than directly facing, a threat.

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Catherine Offord

After undergraduate research with spiders at the University of Oxford and graduate research with ants at Princeton University, Catherine left arthropods and academia to become a science writer. She has...

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Dec 31, 2017

© EVAN OTO/SCIENCE SOURCE

Researchers trained participants in two studies to associate visual cues with a mild electric shock to the finger. Following a visual cue suggesting a shock might be imminent—i.e., during threat anticipation—the volunteers’ brains showed higher activity in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), a region of the brain associated with defensive responses in uncertain situations. When participants were shocked—i.e., during threat confrontation—they showed higher activity in their amygdalae, two almond-shaped clusters of nuclei associated with fear
and emotional stimulation.

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Infographic: Anticipation Versus Confrontation

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