Introduction

There has been more research on the neurobiological nature of fear than any other emotional system of the brain. However, long before this cornucopia of findings, highly effective treatments for anxiety disorders became available because of the serendipi-dous discovery of the efficacy of benzodiazepines (BZs) in the early 1960s. Few major advances in anxiety therapeutics have emerged directly from modern neuroscience research, but there is vast promise in the study of neuropeptide systems (see Chapter 21).

The present chapter is an elaboration of themes considered in Panksepp (1998a, 2000), summarizing clinical and preclinical data related to generalized anxiety disorders. My subsidiary goal is to advance the debatable neurophilosophical position that affective

Textbook of Biological Psychiatry. Edited by Jaak Panksepp Copyright © 2004 by Wiley-Liss, Inc. ISBN: 0-471-43478-7

processes can be studied in animals and that emotional feelings (albeit not related cognitions) arise largely from subcortical neural processes. Hence this chapter has been placed in this Future Prospects section. A sea change is occurring in the study of fear and anxiety, but there is presently little agreement as to the utility of affective concepts in understanding the mammalian brain.

Early in the past century it was common for theorists to assert that fear simply reflected the evaluative belief that certain aspects of the world are dangerous. Accordingly, many assumed we would clarify fear by asking people what made them scared and anxious. Although such cognitive appraisals are of obvious importance in understanding the external precipitants and temporal and cognitive elaboration of emotions, they are not adequate for a scientific understanding of the affective aspects. Indeed, the contingent, environmentally linked cognitive processes associated with experienced fears are bound to vary greatly among species, depending on the qualities of their cortico-cognitive apparatus. Humans are often scared of dark places, while rats prefer them. Rats fear the smell of cats; humans do not.

A general function of cognitions is to discriminate and parse environmental differences, while fearful feelings are evolutionarily more ancient and hence more similar among species, arising to a substantial degree from genetically homologous emotional circuits (or affect programs in psychological terms). This assertion can now be scientifically evaluated by the capacity to translate neurochemical discoveries in animals to the study of subjective responses in humans (Panksepp, 1999a,b, 2000, 2001). In short, the neural substrates of anxieties and fears can finally be analyzed with the tools of modern neuroscience [for a survey of an earlier generation of progress, see Burrows et al. (l990)]. Until we begin to fathom the natural emotional-kinds of the mammalian brain, progress in new drug development in biological psychiatry will continue to be slow.

Free Yourself from Panic Attacks

Free Yourself from Panic Attacks

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