The Substrate of Courage

Some intriguing new research published in the most recent issue of Neuron seeks to elucidate the neural substrates of courage.  The researchers used a experimental paradigm by testing subjects with snake phobias and allowing them to press a button that moves a snake (a non-poisonous one of course) closer and further from their body while they lied in an fMRI machine. Moving the snake closer was consider an act of “courage.”

Activity in the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC) was found to be correlated with courageous behaviors, and was even shown to diminish activity in the fear-sensitive amygdala.

I hope the snake-fearing subjects in this study were compensated nicely!

View the video abstract here:  http://www.cell.com/neuron/abstract/S0896-6273(10)00467-8

About the author

Sam McDougle

SAM MCDOUGLE is a Ph.D. candidate in Psychology and Neuroscience at Princeton University. His writing has appeared in Vice and The Atlantic.

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