Using neuroscience to help understand fear and anxiety: A two-system framework

Joseph E. LeDoux, Daniel S. Pine

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

Tremendous progress has been made in basic neuroscience in recent decades. One area that has been especially successful is research on how the brain detects and responds to threats. Such studies have demonstrated comparable patterns of brain-behavior relationships underlying threat processing across a range of mammalian species, including humans. This would seem to be an ideal body of information for advancing our understanding of disorders in which altered threat processing is a key factor, namely, fear and anxiety disorders. But research on threat processing has not led to significant improvements in clinical practice. The authors propose that in order to take advantage of this progress for clinical gain, a conceptual reframing is needed. Key to this conceptual change is recognition of a distinction between circuits underlying two classes of responses elicited by threats: 1) behavioral responses and accompanying physiological changes in the brain and body and 2) conscious feeling states reflected in self-reports of fear and anxiety. This distinction leads to a two systems view of fear and anxiety. The authors argue that failure to recognize and consistently emphasize this distinction has impeded progress in understanding fear and anxiety disorders and hindered attempts to developmore effective pharmaceutical and psychological treatments. The two-system view suggests a new way forward.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1083-1093
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Volume173
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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