Researchers Discover Auditory Quality of Screams Triggers Fear Response in Brain

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Marji_170715_2Research published in the journal Current Biology reveals that human screams have an acoustic quality that activates the auditory brain and the amygdala, the area of the brain that perceives fear.

Senior author David Poeppel and his team used recordings from YouTube, films, and real-life volunteer screams in the laboratory sound booth to conduct the study. The team then plotted sound waves in a way that reflected the firing of auditory neurons.

Researchers came to the conclusion that the “auditory roughness” of screams, which refers to how fast the volume increases, activates the amygdala through an auditory spectrum uniquely associated with screams, rather than simply high-pitched or loud noises. The findings were true when compared to singing, speaking, and different languages.

The team also found an interesting connection between alarm signals, such as car or security alarms, and the auditory range that is set aside for screams.

As Poeppel notes, “Screaming really works. It is one of the earliest sounds that everyone makes—it’s found across cultures and ages—so we thought maybe this is a way to gain some interesting insights as to what brains have in common with respect to vocalization.”

Researchers conclude that the connection between auditory roughness and the level at which the amygdala is activated and terror is perceived are correlated. This suggests that increasing the auditory roughness of alarms and signals could improve human response to nonscream sounds and prompt a faster reaction, increasing safety and response time.

Source for Today’s Article:
MacGill, M., “Special part of the brain registers screaming, scientists find,” Medical News Today web site, July 17, 2015;