Depending on their pace, volume and pitch, sounds and music are interpreted by your brain differently. In the Cue Your Fear Pathway activity, the same short video is played with two different soundtracks. Listen to the video description first, and then listen to each soundtrack. One will suggest that there is nothing to worry about. The other will suggest danger, thereby triggering your brain’s fear pathway.
This video is filmed from the front of a small fishing boat, with the camera facing towards the back of the boat. It’s a sunny day, the water is calm, and there is land with rolling green hills in the background. A man, who is about forty years old, sits in the back of the boat. He is wearing an orange lifejacket. He faces forward and is controlling the motor behind him, and thereby steering the boat forward and into the body of water. We cannot see behind the camera, to know what he is steering towards.

Have you ever felt afraid while watching a scary movie? Watch the movie clip and switch between the two soundtrack options.

Make sure your speakers are on before you play!

How did the music change make you feel as you were watching the movie clip?

The pace, volume, and pitch of Soundtrack 1 suggest there is nothing to worry about, while those elements in Soundtrack 2 mimic natural sounds of danger. Music like this can turn on your brain’s fear pathway even when there is no actual danger.

A region of the brain called the amygdala is at the hub of two emotional pathways: fear and sense of reward. If your reward pathway is stronger than your fear pathway, you are probably a thrill seeker—a lover of roller coasters, horror movies, and the like. Within the safe context of the amusement park or movie theater, you trigger the fear pathway without the impulse to flee. You can simply enjoy the experience.

Watch the movie clip and switch between the two soundtrack options. Listen to Soundtrack 1 first.

Then select the Soundtrack 2 button to watch the same movie clip with different music that cues your fear pathway.