Mapping The Neural Circuit Of Innate Fear

Neuroscientists in South Korea have identified a region of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex as a regulator of the innate fear response.

AsianScientist (Aug. 22, 2018) – In a study published in Nature Communications, scientists in South Korea have identified the brain circuit responsible for innate fear.

When animals encounter danger, they usually respond to the situation in one of two ways: to freeze or to flee. These responses are controlled by the emotional circuit systems of the brain. The malfunction of these circuits leads to fear-related disorders.

In this study, researchers led by Dr. Jhang Jinho of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in South Korea investigated how mice react when exposed to the scent of predators. Based on the results of optogenetic manipulation, neural circuit tracing and ex vivo slice electrophysiology experiments, the team demonstrated that the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and its projection input to the basolateral amygdala play a role in the inhibitory regulation of innate fear responses to predators’ odors in mice.

The ACC is a sub-region within the prefrontal cortex, comprising a part of the brain circuitry that regulates behavioral and physiological fear responses. This area is capable of high-order processing of the perceived sensory information and conveys ‘top-down’ information toward the amygdala and brainstem areas, known as the response outlet.

“Many other studies have already proved that the prefrontal cortex circuit works to regulate the fear response. However, researchers have paid little attention to the innate response against predators. We particularly focused on the ACC, which has been connected with memory, pain and sympathy, but not the fear response itself,” said Jhang.

Corresponding author of the study Professor Han Jin-Hee added that these results will extend the understanding of how instinctive fear responses can be encoded in our brain circuits.

“Our findings will help to develop therapeutic treatments for mental disorders aroused from fear, such as panic disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder,” he said.

The article can be found at: Jhang et al. (2018) Anterior Cingulate Cortex and Its Input to the Basolateral Amygdala Control Innate Fear Response.


Source: Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology; Photo: Shutterstock.
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