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Scripps research scientists discover chemical triggers for aggression in mice
Date:12/6/2007

The work, reported in an advance, online issue of the journal Nature on December 6, 2007, furthers the broad and important goal of elucidating how the neurological system can detect and respond to specific cues in of a sea of potential triggers.

These results are a really exciting starting place for us to understand how pheromones and the brain can shape behavior, says team leader Lisa Stowers of the Scripps Research Department of Cell Biology.

Pheromones are chemical cues that are released into the air, secreted from glands, or excreted in urine and picked up by animals of the same species, initiating various social and reproductive behaviors.

Although the pheromones identified in this research are not produced by humans, the regions of the brain that are tied to behavior are the same for mice and people, says James F. Battey, Jr., director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) of the National Institutes of Health, which provided funding for the study. Consequently, this research may one day contribute to our understanding of the neural pathways that play a role in human behavior. Much is known about how pheromones work in the insect world, but we know very little about how these chemicals can influence behavior in mammals and other vertebrates.

The Complex Puzzle of Brain Function

Identifying the chemical pathway of signals that make their way through the neurological system is not easy. One of the challenges for scientists studying brain circuits is that the brain is constantly changing. How a brain detects and then responds to the scent of a particular food, for instance, evolves as the animal learns about that food.

But certain behaviors such as aggression responses between male mice tend to be the same each time they are triggered, suggesting a steady pathway through neurological circuits. So, the Stowers group has focused a research program on underst
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Contact: Keith McKeown
kmckeown@scripps.edu
858-784-8134
Scripps Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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