Shocking Pac-Man: How our brains respond to an approaching menace


Wellcome Trust scientists have identified for the first time how our brain’s response changes the closer a threat gets.

From the article:

When faced with a threat – such as a large bear – humans, like other animals, alter their behaviour depending on whether the threat is close or distant. This is because different defence mechanisms are needed depending on whether, for example, the bear is fifty feet away, when being aware of its presence may be enough, or five feet away, when we might need to fight or run away.

To investigate what happens in the brain in such a situation, researchers at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London created a game where subjects were chased through a maze by an artificial predator – if caught, they would receive a mild electric shock. The researchers then measured their brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

In short, the closer the threat, the more we rely on primitive behaviour for quick-response survival mechanisms (fight, flee, etc) instead of planning our response strategies to the threat.

Check Science Magazine for more on this.

Link via Boing Boing

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