The Human Brain: Fear 


"Snake" by Kabibbles is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Evren Ozgu, staff writer

I’ve always found the way humans work perplexing. We have all of these worries and 

fears that we don’t even fully understand. At a young age kids already know that a big giant dog is a terrifying creature since it’s twice the size of you (sometimes) and it has sharp fangs that it can tear your flesh from you skin. Instead the dog just wants to play with the kid. It doesn’t want to hurt you, however our instincts have evolved so much over the years and grown used to the idea that anything that is bigger than us is stronger and could easily kill us. At least that’s what our brain tells us. 

I remember reading about how our old ancestors had to develop a sense of what to fear and what to use to survive. For example, our ape ancestor that was the first in its entire species to see a snake had no idea whether or not the snake is a threat or not. It still feared it though because it had no idea what the snake was. The snake could be a weird looking stick to the ape. Or perhaps a new bug.  Why did our ancestors already instinctively fear this creature it knew nothing about?

It has to due with the amygdala, a somewhat tiny thing that is inside our brain. The amygdala sends adrenaline throughout our entire body causing it to become somewhat numb to pain that way if you were to sprain your ankle on our run or fight with the snake we could ignore it and keep pressing forward. 

Here, think about it like this. It is late at night,  you are walking home in a neighborhood you’ve never been in before and you are waiting for an Uber you called for twenty minutes ago. All of a sudden while you are walking closer to the Uber you feel an unknown presence behind you. You turn your head slightly to the left and see a figure with a hood on walking faster towards you. Looking down at your phone your Uber is just right through this narrow and dark alley. But your stomach begins to feel weird like a bunch of butterflies are swarming around inside it. You suddenly have a sudden urge to begin running. Your body also tells you that if you turn around you should punch this person and call for help. This is the fight or flight theory. 

The theory states that people have two options in dangerous situations. They can either fight off their attacker, or begin to run to safety and back to people who will help. The smarter thing to do in this type of situation is to run down the alley and jump into your Uber. That’s what you do.  Your body gives you this boost in energy, and you take off and jump into the Uber. You’re safe. You let out a massive sigh of relief. 

I’ve always found this quite interesting because everyone feels this at least once a month. A moment of just pure fear and adrenaline. You feel as if you should bolt for the door during a presentation or tear up your exam that you felt you studied for but it turned out you didn’t. 

I understand our instincts were developed over years of evolution and I’ve found it interesting that we still use it today.