Italian scientists have found out why a person freezes during a strong fear. The reason for this is the most powerful psychological stress affecting the control of the movements of the human body.
It is well known that in case of severe fear or emotional stress, a person freezes and stops moving. It is also known that in dangerous situations, our body switches to the “fight or flight” mode, that is, preparing for a battle or escape by throwing out a large amount of hormones, speeding up the heartbeat and thus preparing for active movements. In this regard, fading seems paradoxical and directly opposite in meaning to the action.
However, researchers from Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan have found that the reaction to severe fear can be not only the activation of areas of the brain associated with emotions, as has long been clear to science, but also the involvement of movement control centers. For the first time, scientists conducted a study that confirmed that strong emotions paralyze human movements.
Interestingly, 150 children aged 8 to 9 years took part in the experiments. Some of them already showed early signs of social anxiety, which is why they tried to get rid of all kinds of social situations. These children had problems recognizing emotions, and especially angry faces. These children, as well as their emotionally perfectly healthy peers from the control group, were monitored until adolescence. At the age of 14-15, they all went through tests again to determine the degree of development of social anxiety, as well as through functional MRI to check the brain’s response to the demonstration of “evil faces”.
Experiments have shown that when teenagers were shown angry faces, they had increased activity in the amygdala – the area of the brain that regulates emotions, memory and reaction to threats. But at the same time, to the great surprise of scientists, suppression processes were also observed in the premotor region (part of the motor zone of the brain). Namely, this zone prepares the body for action in case of any threat. If it is suppressed, then the person simply “freezes” on the spot.