Understanding the Brain’s Fear Circuit

Dean Mobbs, Assistant Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and affiliated faculty member of the Tianqiao & Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience had a paper published in the March 6 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Mobbs and his co-authors show for the first time that there are two areas of the brain involved in processing fear. The areas, which they call “fear circuits,” split up the responsibility for dealing with distant and immediate threats. Distant threats that allow more time for thinking and strategic behavior are handled by the cognitive-fear circuit, which consists of connections closer to the front of the brain which is responsible for assessing risk and making decisions. Immediate threats requiring a quick response (fight, flight, or freeze) are handled by the reactive-fear circuit, which consists of connections near the center of the brain.


Read more about Mobbs’ research on the Caltech website here. You can read the full paper, titled “How Cognitive and Reactive Fear Circuits Optimize Escape Decisions in Humans” here.