Is this safe? We know how how to turn off our sense of danger now.

Science Daily reports on the discovery of the brain circuit that recognizes danger:

Researchers at Columbia University’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute and the Department of Neuroscience at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) have identified a cellular circuit that helps the mouse brain to remember which environments are safe, and which are harmful. Their study also reveals what can happen when that circuitry is disrupted–and may offer new insight into the treatment of conditions such as posttraumatic stress, panic and anxiety disorders.

Accurate encoding of ‘contextual’ memories–those associated with particular experiences–enables us to exhibit the appropriate fear responses and, importantly, avoid dangerous situations.

“Neurons in the entorhinal cortex wind their way into the hippocampus via two distinct routes, or pathways,” explained Jayeeta Basu, PhD, an assistant professor in neuroscience and physiology at the NYU Neuroscience Institute. Dr. Basu was this study’s first author and is a former postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Steven Siegelbaum, PhD, at CUMC. “It is thought that contextual memories are formed when these two pathways became activated as part of a carefully timed sequence. But a few years ago, scientists discovered a third pathway that linked the two regions whose purpose was unknown.”

“The implications of these findings for the human brain, while preliminary, are intriguing,” said Attila Losonczy, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of neuroscience at CUMC, a principal investigator at the Zuckerman Institute, and a co-author of this study. “The study suggests that any alterations in these pathways activity–particularly a disruption of the timed delay–may contribute to pathological forms of fear response, such as posttraumatic stress, anxiety, or panic disorders.”