Animals, like people, experience fear and avoidance, which can be reliably observed, quantified, and manipulated in almost all species.
Remarkably, as this volume demonstrates, the neural circuits responsible for the acquisition and expression of fear are conserved throughout phylogeny from rodents through nonhuman primates to humans. Thus, what is discovered about the neuroanatomy and physiology of fear in a mouse can be usefully "translated" to a human with an anxiety disorder.
This breakthrough in both neuroscience and mental health research is detailed in 14 fascinating chapters that cover conditioned fear in animals, showing the essential role of the amygdala in conditioned fear and the hippocampus in contextual memory of conditioned fear; the importance of the amygdala in fear responses of nonhuman and human primates, including studies that show that patients with fear and anxiety disorders have lower thresholds for amygdala activation than do control subjects; and the possibility that chronic exposure to fear may have deleterious effects on the brain's structural integrity.
Best of all, using these scientific models of brain function, we can now see psychotherapy and medication as complementary rather than antagonistic, with each addressing different parts of the same fear circuitry.
The synthesis of knowledge in this groundbreaking work will appeal to practitioners and students alike, and justifies the optimism of its distinguished contributors that psychiatric research is at last in an era in which unprecedented insights will be gained and progress made toward better treatments for fear and anxiety disorders.