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 Eduard Arzt receives highest award from German Materials Society
21.09.2017 | INM - Leibniz-Institut für Neue Materialien gGmbH

nachricht Six German-Russian Research Groups Receive Three Years of Funding
12.09.2017 | Hermann von Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft Deutscher Forschungszentren

All articles from Awards Funding >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>