Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The biology of emotions

Date:
September 17, 2012
Source:
Research Institute of Molecular Pathology
Summary:
Emotions tag our experiences and act as signposts to steer our behavior. Avoiding danger and pursuing rewards is essential for successful navigation through a complex environment, and thus for survival. The search for the neural correlate of emotions has fascinated not only scientists – after all, emotions are a central part of our mental self.

Emotions tag our experiences and act as signposts to steer our behavior. Avoiding danger and pursuing rewards is essential for successful navigation through a complex environment, and thus for survival. The search for the neural correlate of emotions has fascinated not only scientists -- after all, emotions are a central part of our mental self.

A team of researchers, led by Wulf Haubensak at the IMP, has set out to understand how emotions are generated in the brain. Just like seeing or hearing, our feelings are based on the activity of nerve cells or neurons. Emotions are characterized by the activity of multiple areas of the brain: the neocortex, brain stem and an almond-shaped region in the limbic system called amygdala. Together, these components form a complex network of neuronal circuits whose detailed structure and function are not yet understood.

Cartography of the Brain

The generous ERC funds will support an IMP-project to map the emotional circuitry within this network and to study how activity in these circuits gives rise to emotions. In their experimental setups, the researchers will use mice as experimental model system. Mice are able to show basic emotional behaviors and have a brain-anatomy sufficiently similar to ours, which allows us to draw conclusions that might be relevant for humans as well.

To address the origin of emotions, the neuroscientists use a combination of advanced methods that have been developed in recent years. To visualize neuronal circuit elements, they take advantage of the characteristics of certain viruses, such as the rabies pathogen. These viruses infect specific nerve cells and migrate along them to the brain. A fluorescent protein, engineered into the virus in advance, leaves a visible trace of light. This "viral circuit mapping" is able to highlight networks of interacting neurons with cartographic precision.

For a functional analysis of the tagged circuits, the scientists then employ sophisticated optogenetic technology. These methods make it possible to selectively switch groups of neurons on or off, using visible light like a remote control.

Circuit Therapies for the Future

The IMP-project will also address the question of how genes and pharmaceutical substances affect the activity of neuronal circuits and influence emotions. The researchers hope to gain valuable insights into emotional dysfunctions such as post-traumatic stress or anxiety disorders. Ultimately, this could lead to the development of specific "circuit therapies" to treat psychiatric disorders more selectively and with less side effects.

Wulf Haubensak is delighted by the ERC's decision to support his project: "The generous funding will allow us to broaden our studies and to develop new experimental approaches. It also reflects the appreciation of the scientific community for our ideas and will certainly help to attract young, enthusiastic scientists to our project."

The ERC Starting Grants aim to support up-and-coming research leaders who are about to establish a proper research team and to start carrying out independent research in Europe. The scheme targets promising young scientists who have the proven potential of conducting excellent research. In the current call, nine researchers from institutions based in Austria were selected to receive a Starting Grant, out of 91 applications.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Research Institute of Molecular Pathology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Research Institute of Molecular Pathology. "The biology of emotions." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 September 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120917111056.htm>.
Research Institute of Molecular Pathology. (2012, September 17). The biology of emotions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120917111056.htm
Research Institute of Molecular Pathology. "The biology of emotions." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120917111056.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) NBC's "Today" conducted an experiment to see if changing the size of plates and utensils affects the amount individuals eat. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do We Get Nicer With Age?

Do We Get Nicer With Age?

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) A recent report claims personality can change over time as we age, and usually that means becoming nicer and more emotionally stable. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How to Master Motherhood With the Best Work/Life Balance

How to Master Motherhood With the Best Work/Life Balance

TheStreet (Apr. 22, 2014) In the U.S., there are more than 11 million couples trying to conceive at any given time. From helping celebrity moms like Bethanny Frankel to ordinary soon-to-be-moms, TV personality and parenting expert, Rosie Pope, gives you the inside scoop on mastering motherhood. London-born entrepreneur Pope is the creative force behind Rosie Pope Maternity and MomPrep. She explains why being an entrepreneur offers the best life balance for her and tips for all types of moms. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sorry, Guys, Only Women Can Make Their Voices Sound Sexier

Sorry, Guys, Only Women Can Make Their Voices Sound Sexier

Newsy (Apr. 21, 2014) According to researchers at Albright College, women have the ability to make their voices sound sexier, but men don't. Video provided by Newsy
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