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Published May 2021 | Accepted Version + Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

A Decision Architecture for Safety Computations


Accurately estimating safety is critical to pursuing nondefensive survival behaviors. However, little attention has been paid to how the human brain computes safety. We conceptualize a model that consists of two components: (i) threat-oriented evaluations that focus on threat value, imminence, and predictability; and (ii) self-oriented evaluations that focus on the agent's experience, strategies, and ability to control the situation. Our model points to the dynamic interaction between these two components as a mechanism of safety estimation. Based on a growing body of human literature, we hypothesize that distinct regions of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) respond to threat and safety to facilitate survival decisions. We suggest safety is not an inverse of danger, but reflects independent computations that mediate defensive circuits and behaviors.

Additional Information

© 2021 Elsevier Ltd. Available online 2 March 2021. D.M. and S.M.T. are supported by the US National Institute of Mental Health grant no. 2P50MH094258 and Templeton Foundation grant TWCF0366. T.D.Z. is supported by a National Science Foundation grant no. 1911441. No interests are declared.

Attached Files

Accepted Version - nihms-1671275.pdf

Supplemental Material - 1-s2.0-S1364661321000310-mmc1.docx


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August 22, 2023
October 23, 2023