La anatomía del miedo

¿Cómo forma el cerebro los recuerdos más significativos? Los estudios sobre el miedo en las ratas nos han ayudado a aprender mucho acerca de eso. Aunque la gente y las ratas le tienen miedo a cosas distintas, la manera en la que responden al peligro los cerebros y cuerpos de las ratas y de los seres humanos es similar. Dado que el miedo es la raíz de varias patologías humanas, desde los ataques de pánico hasta el síndrome de estrés postraumático, los avances en la comprensión del sistema del miedo del cerebro pueden llevar a nuevos métodos para tratar esas enfermedades.

El centro del sistema del miedo del cerebro se encuentra en una región llamada la “amígdala”. Esta región recibe la información de todos los sentidos (vista, oído, etc.) y a su vez controla las diversas redes que provocan el aceleramiento del corazón, las palmas sudorosas, el estómago contraído, la tensión muscular y los flujos hormonales que sentimos cuando estamos asustados.

La amígdala de la rata responde a los peligros naturales (las ratas temen a los gatos sin tener que aprender a hacerlo) y aprende sobre peligros nuevos (sonidos, imágenes y olores que se dan con anticipación a la presencia del gato o de otras amenazas). A través de estudios sobre la manera en que el cerebro de las ratas aprende acerca de los estímulos, tales como los sonidos que anteceden al peligro, hemos aclarado nuestros conocimientos sobre nuestros propios sistemas para aprender acerca del miedo, y sobre la memoria en su conjunto.

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