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Published March 2020 | public
Journal Article

Space, Time, and Fear: Survival Computations along Defensive Circuits


Naturalistic observations show that decisions to avoid or escape predators occur at different spatiotemporal scales and that they are supported by different computations and neural circuits. At their extremes, proximal threats are addressed by a limited repertoire of reflexive and myopic actions, reflecting reduced decision and state spaces and model-free (MF) architectures. Conversely, distal threats allow increased information processing supported by model-based (MB) operations, including affective prospection, replay, and planning. However, MF and MB computations are often intertwined, and under conditions of safety the foundations for future effective reactive execution can be laid through MB instruction of MF control. Together, these computations are associated with distinct population codes embedded within a distributed defensive circuitry whose goal is to determine and realize the best policy.

Additional Information

© 2020 Elsevier Ltd. Available online 3 February 2020. This work was supported by US National Institute of Mental Health grant 2P50MH094258 and a Chen Institute Award (P2026052) (to D.M.) and the Max Planck Society and the Humboldt Foundation (to P.D.). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the authors' funders.

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August 19, 2023
October 19, 2023