NEW YORK, NY - Sometimes the most terrifying sound, comes in the smallest of packages. Especially if that crying kid is strapped next to you on a "long" flight. Actually a scream "from anyone", is enough to send shivers down our backs and bombard our brains with sensory overload. Researchers at New York University asked why?
David Poeppel, a professor of psychology at NYU says, "We were interested in trying to figure out, what makes a scream a scream? Why do they work so effectively and what is it that allows us to respond so quickly and with such high accuracy to screams? So the team listened to a lot of screams. From movies, the internet, and from folks willing to scream their lungs out into NYU microphones. After the researcher's ears stopped ringing, they noticed something interesting about how our brains registered the shrieks . Poeppel says, "Screams occupy their own, sort of little patch of the sound scape that doesn't seemed to be used for other things."
So, instead of traveling to the section of brain that deciphers normal sounds, a scream bypasses all that and goes right into the area of the noggin' called the amygdala, that knows "fear". Poeppel says, "Screams actually activate the brain in a particular way that signals that it's not just a sound that you're hearing, but it's a sound that signals scariness, fear. Something that requires an immediate and effective response." And why have humans evolved to scream? Well, if you hear a scream, like from a baby, the sound elicits a much quicker reaction from a caregiver. So a scream is a direct message to a brain, to do something fast. Most people hear that loud and clear!