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Where and how are fear-related behaviors and anxiety disorders controlled?
Date:11/21/2013

and cognitive processes, it had not yet been examined in relation to the circuits involved in controlling emotional behaviour.

"Our results identify two complementary neuronal mechanisms mediated by these specific interneurons, which accurately coordinate and increase the neuronal activity of prefrontal projection neurons, leading to fear expression," explains Cyril Herry.

The identification and better understanding of these neuronal circuits controlling fear behaviour should allow the development of new treatment strategies for conditions such as posttraumatic stress disorder and anxiety disorders. "We could, for example, imagine the development of individual markers for these specific neurons, or the use of transmagnetic stimulation approaches to act directly on excitatory or inhibitory cells and reverse the phenomena."

How is fear analysed in an animal?

From an experimental standpoint, the classic Pavlovian conditioning procedure involves associating one stimulus, such as a sound, with another, unpleasant stimulus, such as a small electric shock. This first step allows the animal to establish a persistent aversive memory. In other words, the animal comes to remember and learn that the sound is associated with an unpleasant state, and an immobility response is routinely triggered, which is a good indication of fear in an animal.

In the second step, the extinction procedure involves repeated presentation of the sound alone, inducing a temporary inhibition of the conditioned fear responses. This inhibition is only temporary, as the mere passage of time favours the spontaneous recovery of the conditioned fear responses, which, from the clinical standpoint, may be associated with the phenomenon of relapse into traumatic responses seen following the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder using exposure-based therapies.


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Contact: Cyril Herry
cyril.herry@inserm.fr
INSERM (Institut national de la sant et de la recherche mdicale)
Source:Eurekalert

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