Some people have no fear, like that 17-year-old kid who drives like a maniac. But for the nearly 40 million adults who suffer from anxiety disorders, an overabundance of fear rules their lives. Debilitating anxiety prevents them from participating in life’s most mundane moments, from driving a car to riding in an elevator. A team of researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) describes a new pathway that controls fear memories and behavior in the mouse brain, offering mechanistic insight into how anxiety disorders may arise.
A team of researchers at CSHL has discovered a novel circuit in the mouse brain that controls fear. The red cells are neurons identified by a “trans-synaptic tracing technique,” which allows scientists to trace the neuronal circuit between two regions of the brain (shown here, called the PVT and CeL). Disrupting the circuit is enough to dramatically reduce fear, while strengthening the neuronal interactions can trigger an unwarranted fear response. The researchers suggest that this circuit represents an ideal target for new therapies to treat anxiety disorders.
Credit:Bo Li, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
This work was supported by the US National Institutes of Health, the Dana Foundation, NARSAD, Louis Feil Trust, the Stanley Foundation, and a Harvey L. Karp Discovery Award.
“The paraventricular thalamus controls a central amygdala fear circuit” appears online in Nature on January 19, 2015. The authors are: Mario Penzo, Vincent Robert, Jason Tucciarone, Dimitri De Bundel, Minghui Wang, Linda Van Aelst, Martin Darvas, Luis Parada, Richard Palmiter, Miao He, Z. Josh Huang, and Bo Li. Doi. 0.1038/nature13978