Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The Biology of Emotions

17.09.2012
Neurobiologist Wulf Haubensak, Group Leader at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna, has been awarded one of the prestigious Starting Grants by the European Research Council ERC. The grant is worth 1.5 Million Euros and will support an ambitious project to explore the neural basis of emotions.
Emotions tag our experiences and act as signposts to steer our behavior. Avoiding danger and pursuing rewards is essential for successful navigation through a complex environment, and thus for survival. The search for the neural correlate of emotions has fascinated not only scientists – after all, emotions are a central part of our mental self.

A team of researchers, led by Wulf Haubensak at the IMP, has set out to understand how emotions are generated in the brain. Just like seeing or hearing, our feelings are based on the activity of nerve cells or neurons. Emotions are characterized by the activity of multiple areas of the brain: the neocortex, brain stem and an almond-shaped region in the limbic system called amygdala. Together, these components form a complex network of neuronal circuits whose detailed structure and function are not yet understood.
Cartography of the Brain

The generous ERC funds will support an IMP-project to map the emotional circuitry within this network and to study how activity in these circuits gives rise to emotions. In their experimental setups, the researchers will use mice as experimental model system. Mice are able to show basic emotional behaviors and have a brain-anatomy sufficiently similar to ours, which allows us to draw conclusions that might be relevant for humans as well.
To address the origin of emotions, the neuroscientists use a combination of advanced methods that have been developed in recent years. To visualize neuronal circuit elements, they take advantage of the characteristics of certain viruses, such as the rabies pathogen. These viruses infect specific nerve cells and migrate along them to the brain. A fluorescent protein, engineered into the virus in advance, leaves a visible trace of light. This “viral circuit mapping” is able to highlight networks of interacting neurons with cartographic precision.

For a functional analysis of the tagged circuits, the scientists then employ sophisticated optogenetic technology. These methods make it possible to selectively switch groups of neurons on or off, using visible light like a remote control.
Circuit Therapies for the Future

The IMP-project will also address the question of how genes and pharmaceutical substances affect the activity of neuronal circuits and influence emotions. The researchers hope to gain valuable insights into emotional dysfunctions such as post-traumatic stress or anxiety disorders. Ultimately, this could lead to the development of specific “circuit therapies” to treat psychiatric disorders more selectively and with less side effects.
Wulf Haubensak is delighted by the ERC’s decision to support his project: “The generous funding will allow us to broaden our studies and to develop new experimental approaches. It also reflects the appreciation of the scientific community for our ideas and will certainly help to attract young, enthusiastic scientists to our project.”

The ERC Starting Grants aim to support up-and-coming research leaders who are about to establish a proper research team and to start carrying out independent research in Europe. The scheme targets promising young scientists who have the proven potential of conducting excellent research. In the current call, nine researchers from institutions based in Austria were selected to receive a Starting Grant, out of 91 applications.

About Wulf Haubensak

Wulf Haubensak was born in Tübingen (Germany) in 1972. He studied Biochemistry at the University of Bochum and in 2003 received his PhD in Neurosciences from the University of Heidelberg. He went on to join David Anderson’s lab at the California Institute of Technology as a Postdoc. Since 2011, Wulf Haubensak is a Group Leader at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna.

About the IMP

The Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna is a basic biomedical research institute largely sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim. With over 200 scientists from 30 nations, the IMP is committed to scientific discovery of fundamental molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying complex biological phenomena. Research areas include cell and molecular biology, neurobiology, disease mechanisms and computational biology. The IMP is a founding member of the Campus Vienna Biocenter.

Contact
Dr. Heidemarie Hurtl
IMP Communications
Tel.: (+43 1) 79730 3625
hurtl@imp.ac.at

Dr. Heidemarie Hurtl | idw
Further information:
http://www.imp.ac.at

More articles from Awards Funding:

nachricht Radio astronomers score high marks in the competition for EU funding
12.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie

nachricht Europe wide cooperation on spinal cord injury research receives 1.34 Million Euros grant
12.12.2016 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden

All articles from Awards Funding >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle

17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Smart homes will “LISTEN” to your voice

17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>