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Towards a genetic basis of fear

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
The fear/anxiety topic and how that relates to skiing has been discussed here ad nauseum . We finally seem to have developed a nice genetic model to better study the neural circuitry underlying this behavior. Below are excerpts from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute web site ( www.hhmi.org ).

December 13, 2002— Researchers have discovered the first genetic component of a biochemical pathway in the brain that governs the indelible imprinting of fear-related experiences in memory.

The gene identified by researchers at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Columbia University encodes a protein that inhibits the action of the fear-learning circuitry in the brain. Understanding how this protein quells fear may lead to the design of new drugs to treat depression, panic and generalized anxiety disorders.

The findings were reported in the December 13, 2002 issue of the journal Cell, by a research team that included Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigators Eric Kandel at Columbia University and Catherine Dulac at Harvard University. Lead author of the paper was Gleb Shumyatsky, a postdoctoral fellow in Kandel’s laboratory at Columbia University. Other members of the research team are at the National Institutes of Health and Harvard Medical School.

According to Kandel, earlier studies indicated that a specific signaling pathway controls fear-related learning, which takes place in a region of the brain called the amygdala. "Given these preliminary analyses, we wanted to take a more systematic approach to obtain a genetic perspective on learned fear," said Kandel.

"These findings reveal a biological basis for what had only been previously inferred from psychological studies — that instinctive fear, chronic anxiety, is different from acquired fear," said Kandel.

According to Kandel, further understanding of the fear-learning pathway could have important implications for treating anxiety disorders....

More broadly, said Kandel, the fear-learning pathway might provide an invaluable animal model for a range of mental illnesses. "Although one would ultimately like to develop mouse models for various mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and depression, this is very hard to do because we know very little about the biological foundations of most forms of mental illness," he said. "However, we do know something about the neuroanatomical substrates of anxiety states, including both chronic fear and acute fear. We know they are centered in the amygdala.

"And while I don’t want to overstate the case, in studies of fear learning we could well have an excellent beginning for animal models of a severe mental illness. We already knew quite a lot about the neural pathways in the brain that are involved in fear learning. And now, we have a way to understand the genetic and biochemical mechanisms underlying those pathways."

[ December 13, 2002, 04:13 PM: Message edited by: BadRat ]
post #2 of 3
I've been thinking about this a lot since you posted it, and I have ea question. What, if any effect would an irregualr heartbeat have on either one's perception of fear, or physiological state of fear?

[ December 22, 2002, 06:23 PM: Message edited by: Lisamarie ]
post #3 of 3
Why do you ask this question, LM?
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