Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

What model organisms can teach us about emotion

Date:
February 21, 2010
Source:
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Summary:
Studies of model organisms such as mice and fruit flies can improve scientists' understanding of the neural basis of emotion, according to one researcher.

Scientists know little about how the brain creates and controls emotions -- an uncertainty that presents a major obstacle in the effort to develop treatments for emotional disorders. "The study of the brain science of emotion is in its infancy," says Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator David Anderson, "yet emotional and psychiatric disorders continue to take an enormous toll on human society."

On February 20, 2010, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Annual Meeting in San Diego, Anderson, a neuroscientist at the California Institute of Technology, discussed how studies of model organisms such as mice and fruit flies can improve scientists' understanding of the neural basis of emotion. That understanding, he says, is essential for developing more specific therapies for emotion disorders such as depression, anxiety, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Anderson explains that while functional magnetic imaging (fMRI) studies of the human brain have linked neural activity in specific regions of the brain to particular emotional responses, there are limits to what can be learned from these types of studies. "We cannot tell which of these hotspots represents the actual cause of an emotional response, and which of them represents a reaction to the response," he says.

To makes that distinction, scientists must alter the activity of brain circuits in a targeted way, and then determine the consequences of the changes on emotional behavior. Such experiments are not possible on human subjects, and so scientists turn to model organisms. Anderson, whose own studies at Caltech and HHMI's Janelia Farm Research Campus explore the link between neural circuitry and emotional behaviors such as fear and aggression in both mice and fruit flies, will discuss the power and limitations of these types of experiments.

"We are in the midst of a revolution in the development of new technologies for experimentally manipulating brain circuitry," he says. Molecular and genetic tools that allow scientists to control when specific neurons are turned on in model organisms is already beginning to transform scientists' understanding of many aspects of brain function, including sensation, perception, cognition, and motor control. Anderson's presentation will address how to best apply these tools to the study of emotion.

"We need to know which animals are most suitable for studying this complex subject," he says. The laboratory mouse is amenable to powerful genetics techniques and it has a brain structure that is fundamentally similar to that of humans. But, he says, mouse research is slow, costly, technically difficult, and presents ethical challenges. Invertebrate model organisms, like the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, have simpler brains, more powerful genetic tools, and allow for faster, less expensive studies. "But can one study emotional behavior in a fly?" Anderson asks.

In addition to David Anderson, other speakers included HHMI investigator Larry Zipursky, University of California, Los Angeles, and HHMI investigator Catherine Dulac, Harvard University.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Howard Hughes Medical Institute. "What model organisms can teach us about emotion." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 February 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100220184321.htm>.
Howard Hughes Medical Institute. (2010, February 21). What model organisms can teach us about emotion. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100220184321.htm
Howard Hughes Medical Institute. "What model organisms can teach us about emotion." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100220184321.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

AP (Sep. 20, 2014) The San Diego Zoo has welcomed two Cheetah cubs to its Safari Park. The nearly three-week-old female cubs are being hand fed and are receiving around the clock care. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) Considered a "national heritage" in Belgium, chocolate now has a new museum in Brussels. In a former chocolate factory, visitors to the permanent exhibition spaces, workshops and tastings can discover derivatives of the cocoa bean. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins