Biology Behind: Fear!!

Greetings everyone,

It's happening, the darkness of the night is slowly consuming the daylight hours more and more, the cold is beginning to seep into our houses, your senses are becoming more alert to every creek and every thud. You begin looking around your house seeing the rooms becoming more sinister and suddenly you are becoming ever so curious as to what dwells in those unopened attics and basements, and as you lie in bed you here a deep rumbling howl piercing the darkness then you realize that there in the sky lies a full moon... it can all mean only one thing. Its Halloween week.

For those of you who are on the ball you may notice that we have made a new series called 'Biology Behind:' this will be posted up every Tuesday and will be looking at all topics from a biological viewpoint we hope you enjoy!!
Now to get down to this post, firstly when we think of fear we picture; racing heart, sweaty palms, accelerated breathing, and increasing amounts of energy pumped to our muscles. These characteristic symptoms of fear are a result of our autonomic nervous system more specifically our sympathetic nervous system (a branch of our autonomic nervous system.) Other than the effects previously mentioned when in full drive the sympathetic nervous system leads to pupil dilation, our smooth muscle relaxes in order for oxygen to enter the lungs and lastly the veins in the skin constrict to send more blood to major muscle groups (this is why the character about to face their grizzly doom, become unmistakably pale).

So why do we love horror movies?? 

Well it turns out that when it comes down to this question there are alot of explanations floating around. Curiosity is an incredibly powerful emotion,  you go into the cinemas not knowing what to expect and we love it. (unless your like us who scream at woman in black even though we have watched it many times). The horror genre is all about the thrills and the satisfaction we get at the end saying that we have survived something dark and unexpected, there is also the idea that by watching horror we are able to have a greater understanding to the violence around us. Really?? we can honestly say that we have not been tormented by a malevolent force in our house but hey the week is young... Probably one of the best ones is the interesting idea that our DNA actually loves horror movies and hates Zombies, this is based on human evolution as we have become hardwired to be repulsed by rotten flesh it helped primitive man to avoid food poisoning.

We think that possible food poisoning coming from this guy is the last thought in our mind

One of our favourite explanations for this craving for horror movies is the 'Excitation transfer process' this idea was proposed by Glenn Sparks  a professor and associate head of the Brian lambs school of communication at Purdue university. Basically this theory states that the appeal towards horror movies is how you feel after you have watched it. During the film your body is charged from the sudden adrenaline rush, this then becomes a physiological arousal that we are not aware of at all so the positive emotions you experience like having fun with scaring yourself with your mates becomes intensified. The reversal also applies if you are on a date and it turns out to be really bad after the movie, your negative feelings are intensified so instead of it being bad it become the WORST DATE IN HISTORY!

This all comes down to our brain specifically the Amygdala...

The Amygdala is involved in fear conditioning , modulation of attention and memory for fear-related stimuli, fear recognition, induction of fear related stimuli and fear related behaviour. So it is a pretty big player in our fear.  In a paper published in Current Biology  a patient named SM suffers from Amygdala lesions the patient was placed in many different situations that were designed to induce fear in this patient, the idea was to see whether or not SM is able to display any of the fear characteristics despite not having a fully functional Amygdala. SM was shown 10 of the scariest film clips and the patient described feeling excited and entertaining but never scared! The one that got us is that she got taken to Waverly Hills Sanatorium during Halloween (one of the most scariest places on Earth) SM was greeted by monsters, ghosts and deranged murderers and the patient greeted them all with a smile, laughing and even trying to talk  to them!!
If this isn't the cure to fear we don't know what is!! so when your sitting there watching Saw, Haunting in Connecticut or any number of the horror movies coming on in this glorious week just remember that everything your feeling is partially caused by just one part of your brain!!! 

Well guys that ends of our first post for our new series!!! Such exciting times. We do hope you have enjoyed taking a closer look at such an intense emotion such as fear. Make sure you come by for a visit tomorrow for another Halloween themed article, trust me you don't want to miss it... its awesome! Till then have a fearsome evening and we will see you tomorrow.

Over and out.

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