News Release 

Hypothalamus pathway drives defense behaviors

Newly identified pathway could be target of further anxiety research

Society for Neuroscience

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IMAGE: Heat maps of mice activity. Stimulating the hypothalamus neurons (center) caused increased avoidance of the light-on region, which is a defense behavior. view more 

Credit: Mangier et al., eNeuro 2019

Scientists have identified a previously unknown pathway connecting the hypothalamus and midbrain that drives defensive behaviors, according to research in mice published in eNeuro. Further research on this pathway could increase understanding of anxiety disorders.

The paraventricular hypothalamus has been shown to play a role in maintaining body states, but it was not known if it directly caused defensive behaviors. To investigate this, Qingchun Tong and colleagues at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston developed a mouse model with hypothalamus neurons that could be stimulated with light. Using synapse markers, they found that these neurons were connected to the midbrain and when stimulated caused defensive behaviors such as grooming and escape jumping.

This hypothalamus-midbrain circuit drives innate defensive behaviors, which can go awry in anxiety. Further research on dysfunctions in this or other defense pathways could reveal mechanisms for generalized anxiety disorders.

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Manuscript title: Defensive Behaviors Driven by a Hypothalamic-Ventral Midbrain Circuit

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About eNeuro

eNeuro, the Society for Neuroscience's open-access journal launched in 2014, publishes rigorous neuroscience research with double-blind peer review that masks the identity of both the authors and reviewers, minimizing the potential for implicit biases. eNeuro is distinguished by a broader scope and balanced perspective achieved by publishing negative results, failure to replicate or replication studies. New research, computational neuroscience, theories and methods are also published.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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