Anxiety Could Be Beneficial In A Crisis
New research shows that we detect threats differently depending on our level of anxiety. There is a difference in brain activity and location based on if we are more anxious or more laid-back at the time of the crisis. The research shows that there are different regions of the brain that are activated when previously in an anxious state versus a laid-back state, prior to being exposed to a crisis. Humans are able to detect social threats in these specific regions much faster with an anxious predisposition. The areas of the brain that are activated with an anxious predisposition are also associated with areas of the brain that promote action, or the “fight or flight” response. Contrary, areas of the brain activated with a relaxed attitude are found in facial recognition centers.
Researchers were also able to identify some of the aspects that make a person feel threatened by another. The direction of someone’s eyes plays a role in the sensitivity of the signal. For example, a direct gaze paired with an angry face produces a greater response than if the gaze was directed elsewhere. Furthermore, any gaze that displays threat will again produce a greater response and have more detailed processing.
In the past is was thought that anxiety could impair reaction times while processing facial signals, however this research shows that anxiety may actually be beneficial in these situations.
Marwa El Zein, Valentin Wyart, Julie Grèzes. Anxiety dissociates the adaptive functions of sensory and motor response enhancements to social threats. eLife, 2015; 4 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.10274