Universität Bonn

Hertz-Chair for Artificial Intelligence and Neurosciene


Action selection under threat: the complex control of human defense

Run away, sidestep, duck-and-cover, watch: when under threat, humans immediately choreograph a large repertoire of defensive actions. Understanding action-selection under threat is important for anybody wanting to explain why anxiety disorders imply some of these behaviours in harmless situations. Current concepts of human defensive behaviour are largely derived from rodent research and focus on a small number of broad, cross-species, action tendencies. This is likely to underestimate the complexity of the underlying action-selection mechanisms.

In this ERC-funded project, we use virtual reality, motion capture, and magnetoencephalography, to expose the mechanisms by which behaviour under threat is computed and controlled.

Read more

  • Sporrer J*, Brookes J*, Hall S, Zabbah S, Hernandez U & Bach DR (2022). Computational characteristics of human escape decisions. PsyArXiv, doi:10.31234/osf.io/z52tq. Preprint
  • Bach DR, & Dayan P (2017). Algorithms for survival: a comparative perspective on emotions. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 18, 311-319. PDF


This project is funded by the European Research Council under agreement ERC-2018 CoG-816564 ActionContraThreat.

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