Two brain structures key to emotional balance especially in threatening situations

Oct 21, 2009

Researchers have discovered that a primitive region of the brain responsible for sensorimotor control also has an important role in regulating emotional responses to threatening situations. This region appears to work in concert with another structure called the amygdala to regulate social and emotional behavior.

Georgetown University Medical Center researchers have recently discovered that activation of a primitive brain region, the deep layers of superior colliculus (DLSC), elicits defensive behaviors such as an exaggerated startle, hypervigilance, cowering, and escape. Researchers say it is possible that a prolonged activation of this defense system may lead to emotional disorders.

In a study presented at the 39th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, the GUMC scientists say, in addition to triggering defensive behaviors, the activation of DLSC leads to a decrease in affiliative social interactions. Typically, social interactions are thought to be domain of the amygdala, a region known to work closely with high-level executive structures to regulate emotional processes. The researchers say there is no information about possible interactions between the amygdala and DLSC for regulating social and emotional responses. They decided to try simultaneously activating DLSC while inhibiting the amygdala. In doing so, they discovered that the manipulations cancelled each other out.

"These results suggest that the amygdala and DLSC interact to modulate emotional and social behaviors, either directly, or indirectly by converging on a common target in the brain," says Ashley Decker, a research assistant in the pharmacology department at GUMC, and now a student at the Georgetown University School of Medicine. "The understanding of the functional interaction between these two structures is expected to reveal novel targets for therapeutic intervention for and other ."

Source: Georgetown University

Explore further: Study links enzyme to autistic behaviors

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How the brain keeps emotions at bay

Sep 20, 2006

Daily life requires that people cope with distracting emotions--from the basketball player who must make a crucial shot amidst a screaming crowd, to a salesman under pressure delivering an important pitch to a client. Researchers ...

Recommended for you

Study links enzyme to autistic behaviors

2 hours ago

Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is a genetic disorder that causes obsessive-compulsive and repetitive behaviors, and other behaviors on the autistic spectrum, as well as cognitive deficits. It is the most common ...

A new cause of mental disease?

8 hours ago

Astrocytes, the cells that make the background of the brain and support neurons, might be behind mental disorders such as depression and schizophrenia, according to new research by a Portuguese team from ...

Molecular basis of age-related memory loss explained

Jul 22, 2014

From telephone numbers to foreign vocabulary, our brains hold a seemingly endless supply of information. However, as we are getting older, our ability to learn and remember new things declines. A team of ...

The neurochemistry of addiction

Jul 22, 2014

We've all heard the term "addictive personality," and many of us know individuals who are consistently more likely to take the extra drink or pill that puts them over the edge. But the specific balance of ...

User comments : 0