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Neural control of human freeze-fight-flight

Final Report Summary - NEURODEFENSE (Neural control of human freeze-fight-flight)

The NEURODEFENSE project has been instrumental in advancing our understanding of how humans control defensive stress-reactions, including freezing and fight-or-flight responses.
By newly integrating psychophysiological, behavioral and neuroimaging methods, we were able to reveal neurobiological mechanisms during stress-induced freezing. Most critically, we detected how people shift from passive freezing to active fight-or-flight, which is essential for adequate stress-scoping. We showed that the control over automatic defensive stress-reactions can be influenced by direct frontal brain stimulation and by hormonal interventions, including testosterone administration. Next, and based on these acquired mechanistic insights, we could verify alterations in those neural and hormonal functions in aggressive patients as well as in adolescents whose brains are still developing.
Together the findings have significantly advanced our understanding of human defensive stress-reactions. Insights into individual differences have provided important starting points for the development of new training interventions, directly targeting improved control over defensive stress-reactions.