Published: 26-07-2021 14:22 | Updated: 14-06-2023 09:38

Fear reactions of others recover our own memories of danger

Girl jumping from cliff to cliff.
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Both humans and other animals learn quickly about dangers in their environment by observing the behavior of other individuals. Researchers at Karolinska Institutet now show that both rats and humans can use such social information to reactivate memories about threats that have been previously acquired through their own experiences.

The researchers also show that this social reactivation is stronger if the environment is similar to that in which the original memories were shaped. The study, which is published in the journal PNAS, includes two experiments with human participants, and the results were confirmed in experiments on rats.

Principal Investigator in the current study has been Professor Andreas Olsson, Department of Clinical Neuroscience. The research was funded by among other the German Research Foundation, the European research Council, and Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.


“Observation of others’ threat reactions recovers memories previously shaped by firsthand experiences”. Jan Haaker, Lorenzo Diaz-Mataix, Gemma Guillazo-Blanch, Sara A. Stark, Lea Kern, Joseph E. LeDoux, Andreas Olsson. PNAS, July 27, 2021; vol. 118 no. 29, doi: 10.1073/pnas.2101290118.