Mice lose their fear of territorial rivals when a tiny piece of their brain is neutralized, a new study reports.
The study adds to evidence that primal fear responses do not depend on the amygdala – long a favored region of fear researchers – but on an obscure corner of the primeval brain.
A group of neuroscientists led by Larry Swanson of the University of Southern California studied the brain activity of rats and mice exposed to cats, or to rival rodents defending their territory.
Both experiences activated neurons in the dorsal premammillary nucleus, part of an ancient brain region called the hypothalamus.
Swanson's group then made tiny lesions in the same area. Those rodents behaved far differently.
"These animals are not afraid of a predator," Swanson said. "It's almost like they go up and shake hands with a predator."
Lost fear of cats in rodents with such lesions has been observed before. More important for studies of social interaction, the study replicated the finding for male rats that wandered into another male's territory.
Instead of adopting the usual passive pose, the intruder frequently stood upright and boxed with the resident male, avoided exposing his neck and back, and came back for more even when losing.
"It's amazing that these lesions appear to abolish innate fear responses," said Swanson, who added: "The same basic circuitry is found in primates and people that we find in rats and mice."
The study was slated for online publication the week of March 9 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Swanson predicted that his group's findings would shift some research away from the amygdala, a major target of fear studies for the past 30 years.
"This is a new perspective on what part of the brain controls fear," he said.
He explained that most amygdala studies have focused on a different type of fear, which might more accurately be called caution or risk aversion.
In those studies, animals receive an electric shock to their feet. When placed in the same environment a few days later, they display caution and increased activity of the amygdala.
But the emotion experienced in that case may differ from the response to a physical attack.
"We're not just dealing with one system that controls all fear," Swanson said.
Swanson and collaborators have been studying the role of the hypothalamus in the fear response since 1992.
Because of its role in basic survival functions such as feeding, reproduction and the sleep-wake cycle, the hypothalamus seems a plausible candidate for fear studies.
Yet, said Swanson, "nobody's paid any attention to it."
The PNAS study is the most recent of several by Swanson on fear and the hypothalamus. The few other researchers in the area include Newton Canteras of the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, who collaborated with Swanson on the PNAS study, as well as Robert and Caroline Blanchard of the University of Hawaii.
Carl Marziali | EurekAlert!
Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University
New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.
In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...
A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.
By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...
Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy