Anticipation and the Neural Response to Threat

  • Nathaniel G. Harnett
  • Kimberly H. Wood
  • Muriah D. Wheelock
  • Amy J. Knight
  • David C. KnightEmail author


An important function of emotion is that it allows one to respond more effectively to threats in our environment. The response to threat is an important aspect of emotional behavior given the direct biological impact it has on survival. More specifically, survival is dependent upon the ability to avoid, escape, or defend against a threat once it is encountered. Anticipatory processes supported by neural circuitry that includes the prefrontal cortex and amygdala are critical for the expression and regulation of the emotional response. Further, these anticipatory processes appear to regulate the response to the threat itself. Healthy emotional function is characterized by anticipatory processes that diminish the emotional response to threat. In contrast, emotional dysfunction is characterized by anticipatory processes that lead to an exaggerated threat response. Thus, anticipatory mechanisms play an important role in both healthy and dysfunctional emotional behavior.


Anticipation Conditioning Fear Emotion Threat Regulation 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nathaniel G. Harnett
    • 1
  • Kimberly H. Wood
    • 1
  • Muriah D. Wheelock
    • 1
  • Amy J. Knight
    • 2
  • David C. Knight
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamUSA
  2. 2.Department of Physical Medicine and RehabilitationUniversity of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamUSA

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