Have you ever wondered how your brain registers a loud “bang” and a quick jump scare during a horror movie and causes you to become afraid?
Well, researchers from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego recently discovered a molecular pathway that funnels any threatening sounds, sights, and smells into one single takeaway message: you should be fearful.
More specifically, a molecule known as CGRP is what enables neurons in two brain regions to group various threatening sensory triggers together into a single signal.
Then, that signal is tagged as “negative” and sent to the amygdala– which is responsible for the processing of strong emotions.
Finally, the amygdala will interpret the negative signal and translate it into fear– which triggers fight or flight as well as the release of stress hormones and the sympathetic nervous system.
However, the research team is particularly interested in how this new brain pathway discovery could pave the way for new fear-related disorder treatment options.
“We were excited to find that the CGRP neurons are activated by negative sensory cues from all five senses– sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch,” explained Sung Han, the study’s senior author.
“Identifying new threat pathways provides insights into treating fear-related disorders.”
In fact, previous research had found that various different pathways independently relayed sight, touch, and sound threat cues to numerous brain regions.