What Happens to Our Brain when we feel fear - an article from Smithsonian Magazine

Updated: Jan 5, 2021


If the experience is not triggering enough to the emotional brain, or if is too unreal to the thinking cognitive brain, the experience can end up feeling boring. A biologist who cannot tune down her cognitive brain from analyzing all the bodily things that are realistically impossible in a zombie movie may not be able to enjoy “The Walking Dead” as much as another person.

This is an interesting article to back the idea of why we have to face our fears to overcome them.

  • fear is formed by what we’ve experienced. Like a recorder, our brain remembers that which invoked the emotion of fear (which triggers our fight, flight, freeze response in our mammalian brain);

  • In situations where we expect to feel fear (like in a haunted house experience), our mammalian and thinking brain helps us feel excitement - which is a matter of context - a mixture of fear+fun

  • however, if we were chased down by someone with a knife in hand, this triggers our reptilian brain (amygdala) which gives context to our mammalian and human brain to react based on the fight, flight, freeze response

  • We, however, are also social beings and therefore learn from others as well. So just like in the similar haunted house Experience when we see our friends laugh at being scared, then it becomes a learnt response where we too see the context as fun and do the same.

The science behind fear is an interesting one, and lets continue to understand our fears better so as to overcome them in time.

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