Neuroscience helps in engineering fear

December 12, 2013

The balmy early days of autumn are now a hazy memory. But for a group of investigators experimenting with fear, the memory lives on.

In the weeks leading up to Halloween, the Martinos Center's Lisa Barrett and colleagues assembled an especially creepy haunted house in the basement of a Victorian on a quiet residential road in Newton. Barrett is a leading expert in the study of emotion and for nearly a decade has applied her experience with "fear induction" in this annual charity event; the haunted house raises money for the Greater Boston Food Bank. But here, at least, fear is a two-way street. Even as the haunted house benefits from insights from neuroscience and psychology, the responses it evokes can reinforce findings from the lab - findings about the complexity and contextual dependency of facial expressions, for example.

The Boston Globe published a profile of the haunted house - and the researchers' work - in a late October article. Check it out here: "Northeastern researchers experiment with fear at Newton haunted house."