Brain Scientist Sings Ominous Song Of How Fear Works

This article is more than 9 years old.

As neuroscientists go, Prof. Joseph LeDoux of New York University is something of a rock star, famed for his studies of how fear works in the brain. I knew that, having covered a bit of his work on attempts to erase conditioned fear responses, but I only found out today that he is actually, literally, a rock star. Or at least, a rock musician.

The New York Times online has just posted an essay by Prof. LeDoux that also includes the above YouTube video by his band, The Amygdaloids — named for the almond-shaped seat of fear in the brain, the amygdala. I'm no music critic, but my inexpert opinion is that the video is pleasingly ominous and the melody helped engrave in my brain professorial voice-overs like:

The brain mechanisms of fear are highly conserved. The amygdala is a key structure. It detects danger and produces hard-wired protective responses. The amygdala also forms emotional memories. It uses these to predict harm in the future. Fear learning is rapid and persistent. While fear memories can be controlled, they're hard to eliminate. The amygdala is hyperactive in many psychiatric conditions, some of which can be treated with drugs. Others respond better to psychotherapy. We need better treatments for fear.

This program aired on January 23, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.