The biology of fear- and anxiety-related behaviors

Anxiety is a psychological, physiological, and behavioral state induced in animals and humans by a threat to well-being or survival, either actual or potential. It is characterized by increased arousal, expectancy, autonomic and neuroendocrine activation, and specific behavior patterns. The function of these changes is to facilitate coping with an adverse or unexpected situation. Pathological anxiety interferes with the ability to cope successfully with life challenges. Vulnerability to psychopathology appears to be a consequence of predisposing factors (or traits), which result from numerous gene-environment interactions during development (particularly during the perinatal period) and experience (life events), in this review, the biology of fear and anxiety will be examined from systemic (brain-behavior relationships, neuronal circuitry, and functional neuroanatomy) and cellular/molecular (neurotransmitters, hormones, and other biochemical factors) points of view, with particular reference to animal models. These models have been instrumental in establishing the biological correlates of fear and anxiety, although the recent development of noninvasive investigation methods in humans, such as the various neuroimaging techniques, certainly opens new avenues of research in this field. Our current knowledge of the biological bases of fear and anxiety is already impressive, and further progress toward models or theories integrating contributions from the medical, biological, and psychological sciences can be expected.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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