Neuronal circuits for fear and anxiety

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2015 Jun;16(6):317-31. doi: 10.1038/nrn3945.


Decades of research has identified the brain areas that are involved in fear, fear extinction, anxiety and related defensive behaviours. Newly developed genetic and viral tools, optogenetics and advanced in vivo imaging techniques have now made it possible to characterize the activity, connectivity and function of specific cell types within complex neuronal circuits. Recent findings that have been made using these tools and techniques have provided mechanistic insights into the exquisite organization of the circuitry underlying internal defensive states. This Review focuses on studies that have used circuit-based approaches to gain a more detailed, and also more comprehensive and integrated, view on how the brain governs fear and anxiety and how it orchestrates adaptive defensive behaviours.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety / physiopathology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*