Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Portion of hippocampus found to play role in modulating anxiety

Date:
March 6, 2013
Source:
Columbia University Medical Center
Summary:
Researchers have found the first evidence that selective activation of the dentate gyrus, a portion of the hippocampus, can reduce anxiety without affecting learning. The findings suggest that therapies that target this brain region could be used to treat certain anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder and PTSD, with minimal cognitive side effects.

Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) researchers have found the first evidence that selective activation of the dentate gyrus, a portion of the hippocampus, can reduce anxiety without affecting learning. The findings suggest that therapies that target this brain region could be used to treat certain anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder and post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), with minimal cognitive side effects. The study, conducted in mice, was published today in the online edition of the journal Neuron.

Related Articles


The dentate gyrus is known to play a key role in learning. Some evidence suggests that the structure also contributes to anxiety. "But until now no one has been able to figure out how the hippocampus could be involved in both processes," said senior author Rene Hen, PhD, professor of neuroscience and pharmacology (in psychiatry) at CUMC.

"It turns out that different parts of the dentate gyrus have somewhat different functions, with the dorsal portion largely dedicated to learning and the ventral portion dedicated to anxiety," said lead author Mazen A. Kheirbek, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in neuroscience at CUMC.

To examine the role of the dentate gyrus in learning and anxiety, the investigators used a state-of-the-art technique called optogenetics, in which light-sensitive proteins, or opsins, are genetically inserted into neurons in the brains of mice. Neurons with these genes can then be selectively activated or silenced through the application of light (via a fiber-optic strand), allowing researchers to study the function of the cells in real time. Previously, the only way to study the dentate gyrus was to silence portions of it using such long-term manipulations as drugs or lesions, techniques that yielded conflicting results.

In the current study, opsins were inserted into dentate gyrus granule cells (the principal cells of the dentate gyrus). The researchers then activated or silenced the ventral or dorsal portions of the dentate gyrus for three minutes at a time, while the mice were subjected to two well-validated anxiety tests (the elevated plus maze and the open field test).

"Our main findings were that elevating cell activity in the dorsal dentate gyrus increased the animals' desire to explore their environment. But this also disrupted their ability to learn. Elevating activity in the ventral dentate gyrus lowered their anxiety, but had no effect on learning," said Dr. Kheirbek. The effects were completely reversible -- that is, when the stimulation was turned off, the animals returned to their previous anxiety levels.

"The therapeutic implication is that it may be possible to relieve anxiety in people with anxiety disorders by targeting the ventral dentate gyrus, perhaps with medications or deep-brain stimulation, without affecting learning," said Dr. Hen, who is also director of the Division of Integrative Neuroscience, the New York State Psychiatric Institute, and a member of The Kavli Institute for Brain Science. "Given the immediate behavioral impact of such manipulations, these strategies are likely to work faster than current treatments, such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors."

According to Dr. Hen, such an intervention would probably work best in people with panic disorder or PTSD. "There is evidence that people with these anxiety disorders tend to have a problem with pattern separation -- the ability to distinguish between similar experiences," he said. "In other words, they overgeneralize, perceiving minor threats to be the same as major ones, leading to a heightened state of anxiety. Such patients could conceivably benefit from therapies that fine-tune hippocampal activity."

Dr. Hen and his team are currently exploring strategies aimed at modulating the activity of the ventral dentate gyrus by stimulating neurogenesis in the ventral dentate gyrus. "Indeed the dentate gyrus is one of the few areas in the adult brain where neurons are continuously produced, a phenomenon termed adult hippocampal neurogenesis," added Dr. Hen.

The title of the paper is "Differential control of learning and anxiety along the dorso-ventral axis of the dentate gyrus." The other contributors are Liam J. Drew, Nesha S. Burghardt, Daniel O. Costantini, Lindsay Tannenholz, and Susanne E. Ahmari (CUMC); Hongkui Zeng (Allen Institute for Brain Science, Seattle, WA); and André A. Fenton (New York University, New York, NY and SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY).

The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (1K01MH099371-01 and R37 MH068542), the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, the Sackler Institute, the New York Stem Cell Initiative (NYSTEM C026430), and the Hope for Depression Research Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Columbia University Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mazen A. Kheirbek, Liam J. Drew, Nesha S. Burghardt, Daniel O. Costantini, Lindsay Tannenholz, Susanne E. Ahmari, Hongkui Zeng, André A. Fenton, René Hen. Differential Control of Learning and Anxiety along the Dorsoventral Axis of the Dentate Gyrus. Neuron, 2013; 77 (5): 955 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.12.038

Cite This Page:

Columbia University Medical Center. "Portion of hippocampus found to play role in modulating anxiety." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 March 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130306133802.htm>.
Columbia University Medical Center. (2013, March 6). Portion of hippocampus found to play role in modulating anxiety. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130306133802.htm
Columbia University Medical Center. "Portion of hippocampus found to play role in modulating anxiety." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130306133802.htm (accessed October 26, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) — A scandal involving bogus classes and inflated grades at the University of North Carolina was bigger than previously reported, a new investigation found. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) — Feast your eyes on this gorgeous family-friendly resort. Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
What Your Favorite Color Says About You

What Your Favorite Color Says About You

Buzz60 (Oct. 22, 2014) — We all have one color we love to wear, and believe it or not, your color preference may reveal some of your character traits. In celebration of National Color Day, Krystin Goodwin (@kyrstingoodwin) highlights what your favorite colors may say about you. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) — A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. 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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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