Researchers have identified two neuron populations in the brain that work together to control fear impulses. The findings, published this week in a pair of complementary papers in linkurl:Nature,; may someday facilitate the development of better therapeutic interventions for psychiatric illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder and phobias.
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"A real exciting aspect of this work is how we've now come to understand the regulation of complex emotion -- in this case fear -- at a single cell level," said linkurl:Stephen Maren,; director of the Neuroscience Graduate Program at the University of Michigan, who was not involved in the research. "That's a pretty impressive feat."The amygdala, an almond-shaped structure in the brain involved in emotional memory and learning, has historically been considered key in processing fear impulses, but researchers at the California Institute of Technology wanted to understand the process at the...
Haubensak, W. et al., "Genetic dissection of an amygdala microcircuit that gates conditioned fear," Nature, 468:270-6, 2010.Ciocchi, S. et al., "Encoding of conditioned fear in central amygdala inhibitory circuits," Nature, 468:277-82, 2010.

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