A team of researchers at the University of Iowa studying human fear response has found evidence suggesting that the amygdala -- a part of the brain known to be important in fear responses -- may not be the only key to human fear.
Studying subjects with damaged amygdalas who don't feel fear from outside sources, the team was still able to instill a fear response by switching to internal cues -- in this case, making the body feel it was suffocating
-- suggesting that there are more moving parts to our fear response than a knee jerk reaction from the amygdala. The lesson here, of course, is watch out, because if there's one thing that comic books have taught us, it is that at least one person working in this lab is a convenient aerosol spray away from a full, rich life of super-villainy.
Researchers at Newcastle University
wanted to learn more about why our brains make us recoil from unpleasant sounds
like nails on a chalkboard or screaming. So they looked at the brains of a group of volunteers (who no doubt regretted their decision after this test) and played them a series of sounds to find where the recoil response was coming from. They also asked people to rate the sounds they heard from most to least pleasant, leaving them with a (slightly less than definitive because of its small sample size) list of the very worst sounds on the planet.
At the top? The sound of a knife scraping a bottle
. You can get a look at the rest of the list after the jump.
In the name of studying "natural" fear, scientists built a LEGO Mindstorms robot, dubbed Robogator, complete with eyes, a moving mouth and a lunging motion function, which they unleashed upon lab rats in an attempt to see how the rats react to the scary fake predator. Read past the jump for details.