Take 2 cells, A and B
A x B
x represents the connection between the 2 cells. Think of x as an electrical wire between two processing units (the cells).
When a strong signal/current flows through x, changes happen in both cells, which strengthen x. Next time, it will become easier to activate this small circuit. If the signal is weak then the changes won't happen and the connection will remain weak.
Lets tag on 1 more cell, C
A x B x C
x again represent connections between cells.
Now imagine a scenario where a STRONG signal passes through the x between A and B. Simultaneously, a WEAK signal passes between B and C.
Now what happens, is that BOTH x s get stronger. Connection between all cells is faciliated.
This is how fearful memories are stored in the brain. The main fearful stimuli (say a bear chargingyour ***) and the non salient stimuli (say the location in the forest where you found the bear) will both become part of the fearful memory.
Next time you visit the location in the forest (and there is no bear), your brain still recruits the stored memory and your body feels tense and anxious. the flight or fight response is activated.
The proper term for this is that fearful (or any emotionally charged) memories are generalized.
Literature indicates that the generalization of stored memories varies among people. It is generally broader among autistics. A wide variety of triggers remind them of the fearful experiences they have had in the past.
Maybe it is the same for social or any other kind of anxiety. If you have a bad experience with people then next time you see other people your fearful memories are nonetheless brought to surface and your sympathetic system is activated. Thus you feel anxiety.
SA is mostly a learned disorder. Of course, some people are more susceptible to developing it but what sets if off is a bad experience or a string of bad experiences.
Any thoughts? If I am wrong please correct me. This is based on 10 weeks of a class I took recently.