It is in human nature to fear the unknown. When we don’t know what is going to happen or what is coming next. Most phobias work on ‘what if’. What if I drown? What if something comes out of the dark? Such questions arising in our minds are what get us reeling. We get anxious and start panicking.
Feelings of fear “often have to do with uncertainty, particularly uncertainty around whether something is alive or not” says Northeastern University’s Lisa Feldman Barrett.
We all know fear. However so far, what happens inside the human brain during scary situations is still a big mystery. How our brain reacts to fear, or different types of fears, it may be the same for all or unique to each one of us.
“Is there one brain circuit that controls fear across all the situations in which people feel fear and across different individuals?” says Ajay Satpute, who runs the Affective and Brain Sciences lab at Northeastern University. “Or is it really idiosyncratic and unique and specific to each person?”
There are not one, but many kinds of fear, and it is believed that our brain does not have one trigger or switch for fear. Instead, it has various ingredients, which our brain mixes together to create various kinds of fear. Our brain reacts differently to different fears. Each kind of fear feels a little different from others. It is also because of this, that we fear some things more than others, and even that is different for each individual.
“There are thousands of brain circuits—millions and billions—where brain activations happen,” Satpute says. “Their combined pattern is what ends up creating this experience of fear in our studies. However it’s not like there is an area for fear, which would make it very easy to describe fear if that was true.”