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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