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JNeurosci: Highlights from the Feb. 22 issue

Society for Neuroscience

Check out these newsworthy studies from the February 22, 2017, issue of JNeurosci. Media interested in obtaining the full text of the studies should contact

Zika Virus Appears to Target Support Cells in Developing Brain

The Zika virus gained worldwide attention after it was linked to serious birth defects in babies born to infected mothers. But how the virus wreaks havoc on the developing brain is only gradually coming into focus. In a new study using a novel mouse model of Zika infection, researchers find the virus may initially target a class of support cells in the brain called astrocytes and that it can travel down nerve fibers to spread throughout the brain.

Corresponding author: Anthony van den Pol,

Genetic Variant Linked to PTSD Alters Brain's Response to Stress

Traumatic or stressful experiences can dramatically alter learning and memory. Previous studies indicate stress alters the way memories are stored, triggering the formation of more rigid "habit" memories at the expense of more flexible "cognitive" memories, which is thought to help us cope with stress. In a new study, researchers find people with a genetic variant previously linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) respond to stress differently, showing a diminished shift from cognitive to habit memory formation and greater activation of the brain's emotional center, the amygdala. The results might help explain why carriers of the genetic variant are more vulnerable to PTSD.

Corresponding author: Lars Schwabe,

Social Rank Drives Brain Circuit Activity in Zebrafish

In social animals, group organization and cohesion depend on a social hierarchy. An individual's social rank dictates how he behaves. In a new study in zebrafish, researchers reveal the neural activity underpinning behavioral differences in socially dominant and subordinate individuals. In their experiments and modeling, they find social status shifts the activation of neural circuits responsible for swimming and escape behavior -- dominant zebrafish have more active swim circuits while their subordinate peers have more active escape circuits. The results shed light on how social factors can reconfigure competing neural circuits as an adaptive behavioral strategy.

Corresponding author: Fadi Issa,


The Journal of Neuroscience is published by the Society for Neuroscience, an organization of nearly 38,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and nervous system.

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