Navigation Links
Animal behavioral studies can mimic human behavior

NEW YORK (Jan. 14, 2010) -- Studying animals in behavioral experiments has been a cornerstone of psychological research, but whether the observations are relevant for human behavior has been unclear. Weill Cornell Medical College researchers have identified an alteration to the DNA of a gene that imparts similar anxiety-related behavior in both humans and mice, demonstrating that laboratory animals can be accurately used to study these human behaviors.

The findings may help researchers develop new clinical strategies to treat humans with anxiety disorders, such as phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Results from the study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, are published today in the journal Science.

"We found that humans and mice who had the same human genetic alteration also had greater difficulty in extinguishing an anxious-like response to adverse stimuli," explains Dr. B.J. Casey, co-senior author of the study and professor of psychology in psychiatry from The Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology at Weill Cornell Medical College.

The researchers observed common behavioral responses between humans and mice that possess an alteration in the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene. The mice were genetically altered -- meaning that they had a human genetic variation inserted within their genome.

To make their comparison, the researchers paired a harmless stimulus with an aversive one, which elicits an anxious-like response, known as conditioned fear. Following fear learning, exposure to numerous presentations of the harmless stimulus alone, in the absence of the aversive stimulus, normally leads to subjects extinguishing this fear response. That is, a subject should eventually stop having an anxious response towards the harmless stimulus.

"But both the mice and humans found to have the alternation in the BDNF gene took significantly longer to 'get over' the innocuous stimuli and stop having a conditioned fear response," explains Dr. Fatima Soliman, lead author of the study, who is currently a Tri-Institutional MD-PhD student, and has completed her Ph.D. in the labs of Drs. B.J. Casey and Francis S. Lee.

In addition to the observational testing, the researchers also performed brain scans using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), on the human participants, to see if brain function differed between people with the abnormal BDNF gene and those with normal BDNF genes.

They found that a circuit in the brain involving the frontal cortex and amygdala -- responsible for learning about cues that signal safety and danger -- was altered in people with the abnormality, when compared with control participants who did not have the abnormality.

"Testing for this gene may one day help doctors make more informed decisions for treatment of anxiety disorders," explains Dr. Francis S. Lee, co-senior author of the study and associate professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medical College.

Therapists use exposure therapy -- a type of behavior therapy in which the patient confronts a feared situation, object, thought, or memory -- to treat individuals who experience stress and anxiety due to certain situations. Sometimes, exposure therapy involves reliving a traumatic experience in a controlled, therapeutic environment and is based on principles of extinction learning. The goal is to reduce the distress, physical or emotional, felt in situations that trigger negative emotion. Exposure therapy is often used for the treatment of anxiety, phobias and PTSD.

"Exposure therapy may still work for patients with this gene abnormality, but a positive test for the BDNF genetic variant may let doctors know that exposure therapy may take longer, and that the use of newer drugs may be necessary to accelerate extinction learning," explains Dr. Soliman.


Contact: Andrew Klein
New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center/Weill Cornell Medical College

Related biology news :

1. Roe of marine animals is best natural source of omega-3
3. New on-off switch triggers and reverses paralysis in animals with a beam of light
4. Master regulator found for regenerating nerve fibers in live animals
5. Geologist analyzes earliest shell-covered fossil animals
6. PETAs push for changes in USDA testing pays off for animals
7. Scientists remove amyloid plaques from brains of live animals with Alzheimers disease
8. Cell death occurs in the same way in plants, animals and humans
9. Protecting humans and animals from diseases in wildlife
10. Research team finds first evolutionary branching for bilateral animals
11. Ancient oceans offer new insight into the origins of animal life
Post Your Comments:
(Date:7/20/2017)... WASHINGTON , July 20, 2017 Delta (NYSE: ... to board any Delta aircraft at Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). ... Delta launches biometrics ... Delta,s ... Delta Sky Club is now integrated into the boarding process to ...
(Date:5/23/2017)... -- Hunova, the first robotic gym for the rehabilitation and functional motor sense ... Genoa, Italy . The first 30 robots will be available ... USA . The technology was developed and patented at the IIT ... Movendo Technology thanks to a 10 million euro investment from entrepreneur Sergio ... ...
(Date:4/24/2017)... 2017 Janice Kephart , former ... Strategy Partners, LLP (IdSP) , today issues the ... Trump,s March 6, 2017 Executive Order: Protecting ... can be instilled with greater confidence, enabling the ... refugee applications are suspended by until at least ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... October 11, 2017 , ... ... compared the implantation and pregnancy rates in frozen and fresh in vitro ... of progesterone and maternal age to IVF success. , After comparing the results ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) , ... ... ... Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a development-stage cancer-focused pharmaceutical company advancing targeted antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) ... all uses of targeted HPLN (Hybrid Polymerized Liposomal Nanoparticle), a technology developed ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... International research firm Parks Associates announced today that ... TMA 2017 Annual Meeting , October 11 in Scottsdale, ... security market and how smart safety and security products impact the competitive ... Parks Associates: Smart Home Devices: Main ... "The residential security market has experienced continued ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... October 10, 2017 , ... ... 13 prestigious awards honoring scientists who have made outstanding contributions ... scheduled symposium during Pittcon 2018, the world’s leading conference and exposition for laboratory ...
Breaking Biology Technology: