Your Health

Fear Factor: Don't Let NYU Prof Scare You

A creepy crawley critter in your basement or proposals to overhaul health care can be downright frightening.

joseph ledoux and the amygdaloids

Joseph LeDoux (left) and the Amygdaloids. William Chang hide caption

itoggle caption William Chang

And as NPR's Julie Rovner reports, opponents have been using scare tactics to fight changes to the American health-care system for just about as long as people have been trying to give it a makeover.

It turns out the foes of change are pretty smart because fear works. "Once fear is aroused and in your brain, it tends to take over and dominate," explains Joseph LeDoux, a New York University neuroscientist. It's also contagious.

But LeDoux, who's written tons of academic papers and several books on how the brain works, has his own viral way of spreading the science of the brain: rock music. He leads a band called the Amygdaloids, named for the almond-shaped region of the brain instrumental in the fear response.

The group of New York University researchers specializes in a genre they've dubbed "Heavy Mental," and has even played Madison Square Garden. OK, so it was for an NYU graduation ceremony. Still, pretty impressive.

Check out the video and hear LeDoux answer the age-old question, "Why do we feel so afraid?" Well, he and the band answer in one of their signature songs, "It's all in the nut in your brain."

We saw him lecture then rock out at a meeting of the Secret Science Club at a Brooklyn nightspot a few years ago. The real crowd-pleaser that evening, the public debut of the Amygdaloids, was the band's cover of the Rolling Stones' "19th Nervous Breakdown," as we recall. But memory, as LeDoux knows, can be a funny thing.

If your brain wants to process the sights and sounds of LeDoux and the Amygdaloids for itself, their next show is Sept. 24th at Kenny's Castaways in New York. No cover charge.



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