It has been traditionally assumed that there is one “fear circuit” with fear arising from the amygdala.
Researchers Pine and Le Doux have proposed that there are 2 circuits and that the amygdala “is not itself responsible for the experience of fear” (Joseph E. LeDoux, Ph.D., Daniel S. Pine, M.D., 2016). In their article “Using Neuroscience to Help Understand Fear and Anxiety: A Two-System Framework” published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Pine and LeDoux have identified that brain circuits responsible for higher order thinking, attention, and language are responsible for our subjective experience of fear.
Learning how to communicate with your amygdala differently, has the power to over-ride the fear response and decrease anxiety. This is especially true with panic attacks. Treatments that involve your higher order thinking and behavior can be used alongside medication to achieve long-term and more permanent improvement.
The amygdala works subconsciously and indirectly to threats. Your conscious thinking evaluates the threat and decides if it is a real threat and if you should be afraid. Your thinking mediates the level of fear produced by the amygdala. Your amygdala responds to cues from your thoughts and behavior. This is why cognitive behavioral therapy may be more effective at treating anxiety than medication alone.