Surviving threats: neural circuit and computational implications of a new taxonomy of defensive behaviour

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2018 May;19(5):269-282. doi: 10.1038/nrn.2018.22. Epub 2018 Mar 29.


Research on defensive behaviour in mammals has in recent years focused on elicited reactions; however, organisms also make active choices when responding to danger. We propose a hierarchical taxonomy of defensive behaviour on the basis of known psychological processes. Included are three categories of reactions (reflexes, fixed reactions and habits) and three categories of goal-directed actions (direct action-outcome behaviours and actions based on implicit or explicit forecasting of outcomes). We then use this taxonomy to guide a summary of findings regarding the underlying neural circuits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aggression*
  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning
  • Classification*
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Decision Making
  • Defense Mechanisms*
  • Goals
  • Habits
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Neurons / physiology*