December 5, 2019

Learned fear responses enable animals — including humans — to flee or freeze in the face of a perceived threat. But if these behaviors persist after the danger lifts, they can become paralyzing and disabling. That’s a key element of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

To explore how fear becomes entrenched, researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have traveled down the precise neuronal pathways in the brains of mice that trigger fear responses, and which normally extinguish the behaviors once the danger has passed.