Scientists have Learned why People are Afraid of the Dark
OREANDA-NEWS Fear is a common reaction to darkness, especially in childhood. In the recent study published in PLOS One, scientists have finally figured out which mechanisms in our brain are responsible for this manifestation.
Scientists know that the amygdala in the brain plays a key role in the formation of emotions, in particular fear. They decided to test how the activity of this area of the brain depends on lighting.
Twenty-three participants in the experiment were exposed to bright light, dim light, and darkness in turn. During the exposure, scientists scanned people's brains and tracked the activity of the amygdala.
It turned out that the bright light suppressed the activity of the amygdala. Dim light did the job worse. And in complete darkness, the activity of the amygdala was high.
It also turned out that light enhanced the amygdala's connection to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which is associated with risk and fear processing, as well as emotional responses.
This means that the brighter the lighting, the better the person's brain is at regulating fear.
Scientists will need more research to figure out all the details of this connection. But already now they argue that light therapy can be used not only to treat depression, but also attacks of anxiety.