Researchers at University College London look to have taken a slightly unconventional approach in their studies on fear, with the BBC reporting that they’ve crafted a “Pac-Man-like” game that boasts the added risk of electric shock. Apparently, volunteers play the game while an MRI scanner monitors them, moving a blue triangle through a 2D maze while trying to avoid a red dot “predator.” If that dot catches them, they receive an electric shock. As that danger neared , the researchers found that players stopped using their their prefrontal cortex in their forebrain and instead relied on their midbrain area, which controls “gut-level reflexes.” At least that’s what they’re saying. We have a sneaking suspicion it may all just be an elaborate trick the researchers play on freshman students.
Via The Inquirer
The forebrain is active during periods of anxiety, and helps coordinate escape strategies to avoid the threat, he said.
But when the computer game predator moved nearer, blood flow switched to the midbrain.
The midbrain is a primitive area of the brain, and it controls gut-level reflexes such as the decision to fight or flee, said Dr Mobbs.
“When a fast response is needed, the midbrain may inhibit the prefrontal cortex,” he said.
“The closer a threat gets, the more impulsive your response – in effect, the less free will you have,” he added.
The prefrontal cortex is much larger in modern humans than it was in our ancestors, and so we may have evolved to be more adept at avoiding threatening situations, thinks Dr Mobbs.
“We are probably better survival machines now,” he said. source (BBC NEWS)