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Fight or Flight Response

September 28, 2019 No Comments

Hi. It’s Mr. Andersen. Today
I’m going to talk about the fight or flight reaction. This is one of my favorite videos
on YouTube. This is from So we got this person here walking down the
street. All of a sudden they realize there’s a car coming and then they get out of the
way. Now if I were to keep playing it the guy jumps out of the car, comes running in
this direction. But basically I want to talk about what’s going on. So once this guy sees
the car, how does he number one get out of the way? And then how does that affect his
body? How does that affect the organs and the chemistry and all of that inside his body.
And so that whole thing is called the fight or flight. And so when I ask students, you
know, how does he get out of the way of the car? The answer is always adrenaline. And
the right answer is no, it’s not adrenaline. Adrenaline is not going to be able to get
there that quickly. And so how does the guy really get out of the way? Well, he’s going
to see the car coming. He’s going to process that in his brain. And then he’s going to
send a message down his nervous system. That nervous system is going to be attached to
muscles. And those muscles are going to have ATP ready to go. And so the way he’s able
to jump out of the way and not get hit by the car, doesn’t have anything to do with
the fight or flight response. It’s simply his nervous system, his muscles and just responding
to that threat immediately. But if you’ve ever been in a situation like that, where
you just barely survive an accident or something like that, all of the sudden you feel this
rush of just your heart starts beating fast or your breathing. You feel warm. Now that’s
part of the fight or flight response. Because this guy right here, since he’s living in
a city, is able to just kind of walk back on to the road and keep about his business.
But back in the day if you were attacked by a mountain lion or somebody else, you had
to fight now. You had to flee. Or you had to attack the attacker. And so all of that
is part of what’s called the sympathetic nervous system. Or that system inside our body that
allows us to fight or flight. And so let’s zoom inside this guy and talk a little bit
more about how are the fight or flight works. And so it’s basically centered around his
brain. And so in the center of his brain, near the bottom we have something called the
hypothalamus. So the hypothalamus, in that area of the brain, is essentially going to
send a signal. Now that signal, not only are we getting signals that are going to the muscles
that allow you to move, but it’s going to send a signal all the way down a nervous signal
all the way down here. Because in the center of our adrenal gland we have something called
the adrenal medulla. It’s connected nervously to the brain. So the moment he sees that car
and realizes he might die, there’s a signal being sent to the adrenal medulla or the center
of the adrenal gland. It’s going to give off what’s called adrenaline. And that adrenaline
is epinephrine. Epinephrine is a chemical signal that is going to be attached to the
circulatory system. And so it’s going to course through the body. So as his heart beats faster
and faster and faster epinephrine is going to flow throughout the rest of the body. Now
epinephrine is not going to go into the cells of the body. It’s simply going to, if we say
this is a big liver cell, it’s simply going to bind to proteins on the surface of those
cells. And so what’s it going to do to the liver? Well in the liver what it’s going to
do is it’s going to trigger a signal transduction pathway that’s going to convert glycogen,
glycogen that’s found inside the cells of the liver. And it’s going to use that as glucose.
Why is it doing that? Well glucose is our energy supply and so now glucose is going
to be coursing through our body along with epinephrine. And so now we have a supply of
energy so we can quickly breakdown that glucose. Get ATP and we can do more out of it. But
what’s interesting is that epinephrine is going to go other places in the body. And
it’s going to have different responses depending on where it goes. And so what is epinephrine
going to do to the cells that are in control of the breathing? The cells of the lung. It’s
going to speed up that breathing rate. What’s epinephrine going to do when it goes to the
cells of the heart? It’s going to speed up the rate of the heart beat. And so it’s going
to trigger a signal transduction pathway in the heart that’s very similar to the signal
transduction pathway that we find in the liver cells. However it’s going to have a different
response inside the cells. It’s going to not release glucose, but it’s going to increase
the rate of the beating of those cardiac cells. What do you think would happen to the digestive
system? Well epinephrine is going to go there as well. But what it’s going to do is it’s
going to vasoconstrict. So it’s going to slow down digestion. And so it’s going to slow
down those blood vessels that feed those areas that allow us to breakdown and digest food.
Because when you’re getting out of the way of a car or fighting an attacker, you don’t
really need to concentrate on breaking down that bagel that you ate for breakfast. So
it’s going to shut that down. But it’s going to go to the muscles of your body. And it’s
going to vasodilate. And so it’s going to move more blood to those areas. And so our
whole body is designed so we can have one signal, that epinephrine, but it can have
all these different responses throughout the rest of the body. And so that’s going to allow
our body to respond to that threat. And that’s why your heart races. You breathe faster.
Your pupils dilate. All that happens and you can thank epinephrine for that. And it’s that
chemical response and the different either gene expression or signal transduction pathways
that we have as a result. And so I hope that’s helpful.

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