University of Cambridge > > Cambridge Neuroscience Seminars > Fearful Brains in an Anxious World

Fearful Brains in an Anxious World

Add to your list(s) Download to your calendar using vCal

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Hannah Critchlow.

This lecture is free to attend and no registration is required.

Fear and anxiety are normal adaptive functions of the brain. However, millions of people suffer from excessive or inappropriate fear and anxiety. Research on the brain mechanisms of fear and anxiety gives us clues about how these normally function, what changes in the brain when they malfunction, and how specific malfunctions might be most effectively treated. Better control of inappropriate and excess fear and anxiety would improve health and well-being, both for individuals and societies. While some fears are innate, most of the things that threaten well-being in modern life are based on learning. Indeed, in dangerous situations we learn rapidly and form persistent memories. Specifically, associations are formed between painful or aversive stimuli and other stimuli present at the time. This form of learning is called Pavlovian fear conditioning. The neural system underlying fear conditioning crucially synaptic plasticity in the lateral nucleus of the amygdala (LA). The cellular and molecular signals that underlie the formation and storage of memory in the LA are well understood. As more is learned, it may be possible to apply this knowledge to the treatment and prevention of disorders related to fear and anxiety. Recent studies on individual differences in fear, the transition from reaction to action, and reconsolidation of fear memory will be emphasized.

Joseph E. LeDoux (b. December 7, 1949 in Eunice, Louisiana) received his Ph.D. in 1977 from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, NY. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University Medical College (New York, NY), where he was made an Assistant Professor in 1980 and an Associate Professor in 1986. Professor LeDoux then moved to New York University’s Center for Neural Science where he was promoted to Full Professor in 1991. Since 1996 he has been the “Henry and Lucy Moses Professor of Science,” and since 2005 he has held the title of “University Professor”. LeDoux’s work has focused on the study of the neural basis of emotions, especially fear and anxiety. His work has elaborated in detail how the brain detects and responds to danger, and learns and forms memories about threats. For more information, visit

Over the course of his career LeDoux has received a number of awards, including the Fyssen Foundation International Prize in Cognitive Science, the Jean-Louis Signoret Prize from IPSEN Foundation, consecutive MERIT Awards and Research Scientist Awards from the National Institute of Mental Health, the Donald O. Hebb Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions from the American Psychological Association, and a Presidential Citation for contributions to the study of the emotional brain from the American Psychological Association. LeDoux sits on the editorial board of several journals and has given the Society for Neuroscience Presidential Lecture. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a Fellow of the New York Academy of Sciences, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Joseph LeDoux is also a member of The Amygdaloids, a band of scientists that plays original songs about mind and brain and mental disorders, the lyrics of which are often inspired by his research. Since band formed in 2006 they have played at Madison Square Garden, The John F. Kennedy Center, The 92nd Street Y, and numerous rock clubs in NYC . The Amygdaloids released their first CD, Heavy Mental, in 2008 and is scheduled to release Brainstorm in March 2009. Information about the band is available at and at

This talk is part of the Cambridge Neuroscience Seminars series.

Tell a friend about this talk:

This talk is included in these lists:

Note that ex-directory lists are not shown.


© 2006-2024, University of Cambridge. Contact Us | Help and Documentation | Privacy and Publicity