The Neural Circuits that Underlie Fear

Nader Karim, Le Doux Joseph

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter reports the data derived from electrocortical and neuroimaging studies which provide strong evidence for a possible neuroanatomical circuit underlying fear responses and shyness in humans. It starts with a selective overview of the some of the key circuitry that underlies two major emotional and motivational systems - the approach and withdrawal systems. It also addresses individual differences in these basic systems, indicates how such differences might be studied, and discusses the behavioral consequences of such individual differences. In addition, it specifically considers the problem of behavioral inhibition and offers new findings on relations between prefrontal asymmetry and measures of behavioral inhibition in a longitudinal sample. Lastly, it evaluates some of the implications of these data for understanding the mechanisms that underlie behavioral inhibition. It is shown that neither the measures of brain function nor the behavioral measures of inhibition are stable from age 3 to 10 years even though measures of prefrontal activation asymmetry predict concurrent measures of behavioral inhibition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationExtreme Fear, Shyness, and Social Phobia
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199848232
ISBN (Print)0195118871, 9780195118872
StatePublished - Mar 22 2012


  • Approach system
  • Behavioral inhibition
  • Brain function
  • Children
  • Emotional circuitry
  • Fear
  • Prefrontal asymmetry
  • Shyness
  • Withdrawal system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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