AN52(2)61-70 - ACTIVITAS NERVOSA SUPERIOR Activitas Nervosa...

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Activitas Nervosa Superior 2010; 52 : 2,61-70 61 P HYSICAL V ERSUS S OCIAL F EAR : A F UNDAMENTAL D ICHOTOMY Estelle Longin*, Mariam Chammat, Georges Chapouthier, Roland Jouvent CNRS, CHU Pitié-Salpétrière, Paris, France Received March 11, 2010; accepted March 25, 2010 Abstract In this review we scrutinize the differences between two aspects of fear: physical fear and social fear. Based on the cog- nitive and behavioural differences in panic disorder and social phobia we try to correlate cerebral structures implicated in both kinds of fear. We study the neocortical control mechanisms over physical fear that render social fear more chan- nelled. We also try to understand the dynamics and evolutionary origins of each, knowing that physical fear is more im- mediate while social fear has more social and evolved characteristics. Key words: Emotion; Fear; Social Cognition; Behaviour INTRODUCTION Facing dangers presented in the environment animals less elevated in the phylogenetic tree are directly alerted by a pain sensibility called “nociception”. They respond to it by withdrawal or by movements like retreating a part of the body or simply by flight. For the most elevated animals, here mainly vertebrates, dangers presented in the environment are processed in a differed manner. Even though low level immediate responses are possible they usually “evaluate” the consequences of their actions. This evaluation can be achieved though contributions of negative emotions that we can articulate in three fundamental concepts: stress, fear, and anxiety. Stress as defined by Hans Selye is not fundamentally considered an emotion even though our modern usage of the word seems to consider it so. It usually refers to a “stressed person” to designate a person consciously going trough a rough period of time. Stress is rather seen as a global hormonal response of an organism that is put in harmful or unpleasant conditions. The present study is focused on more cerebral aspects of negative emotion. Darwin (1872) has already suggested the functional utility of fear; indeed, it represents the cerebral alarm elicited by a threatening stimulus. In vertebrates, fear and its mechanisms are supported by the limbic system. When the stimulus is not really present, when fear is temporally “differed”, we can talk about anxiety which is rather a state of negative emotion that puts the limbic system in alert. When the stress generating stimulus is absent there can exist tow types of anxieties: “legitimate” ones and “excessive” ones namely highly exceeding the “normal” alert reaction of the concerned organism. Whether legitimate (normal) or no justified (pathologic), anxiety can be assimilated to the cerebral response of stress. Whereas stress is a physiological response of the entire body, anxiety would be, in a way, its mental consequence.
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AN52(2)61-70 - ACTIVITAS NERVOSA SUPERIOR Activitas Nervosa...

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