Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fearful Emotions and the Brain

Recent research from the University of Iowa substantiates the important role the the amygdala serves in the perception of fear. But questions regarding the role of the amygdala in the expression of emotions have persisted. A recent study provides an answer.

For decades, investigators have been trying to identify how the brain encodes and decodes environmental and social stimuli related to various emotions (e.g., disgust, happiness, anger, sadness, surprise).  In the process they have debated whether or not there are just a few fundamental emotions from which all emotions may be derived, much like the manner in which primary colors may be combined with black to create a range of colors and hues, and if so, what might these basic emotion be.  Investigators have also sought to determine if such basic emotions are cultural universals.

One of the emotions that has been considered fundamental is the emotion of fear. Does the cover from the journal Nature above to the right appear to be an image that conveys fear?