Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 18 September 2018


Fear and Perception

To flee or not to flee: how the brain decides what to do in the face of danger,
Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, September 12, 2018.


"Just like any other animal in nature, our reaction to a threat is invariably one of the following three: escape, fight, or freeze in place with the hope of remaining unnoticed"

"These behaviours are fundamental, but we still don't know what the rules of the game are: in each situation, how does the brain decide which of the three strategies to implement and how does it ensure that the body carries it through?"

The Threat
“...we placed the flies in a covered dish and exposed them to an expanding dark circle (which is how a threat looks like to a fly)...”

Fear Response
“...the flies' response hinged on their walking speed at the moment the threat appeared. If the fly was moving slowly, it would freeze, but if it was walking quickly, it would run away from the threat.”


Some Thoughts on Fear

This research indicates that the Flies strategies are controlled by physics, conforming with the fundamental fact that, “things at rest tend to stay at rest, things in motion tend to stay in motion.”

Best Answer
Their observation, analysis, and response systems analyzes the threat, and responds in the most appropriate manner for their current physical motion status, according to the recognized laws of physics.

A moving fly cannot stop easily, and a stopped fly cannot easily take off, so they go with the best odds for their current physical disposition: a slow fly stops, and a moving fly goes for escape.
It would be interesting to see if changing the speed with which the threat approaches the fly, the speed the black dot expands, has on flies decision making point. Do the flies’ decision to attempt escape or freeze change with changes in threat speed?

In other words, will a slowly approaching threat cause slower moving flies to attempt escape, rather than freezing? This would tell us how sensitive the flies are to the relationship between speed of an approaching threats and their current motion status.

Human Complexity
Human analysis is much more multi-dimensional, involving sophisticated threat analysis involving numerous threat factors, including terrain analysis, weapon disposition and availability, counter-aggression, and, “unfolding,” strategies, being “emergency” plans that change and evolve with evolving threat situations.

Yet, this bit of research above shows us neural systems that are, "hard wired," into us, that it behooves us to know about.

Be Ready
OK, I think this is important because you will face emergency situations in your life, and if you don’t want your first to be your last, you should be better prepped than a fruit fly...though we may share some of the basic circuitry.


Science hunts "Fear," Wolf hunts Elk, Man hunts Wolf


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