Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New brain-based marker of stress susceptibility: Finding might help prevent mental illnesses linked with stress

Date:
July 29, 2014
Source:
Duke University
Summary:
Some people handle stressful situations better than others, and it's not all in their genes: Even identical twins show differences in how they respond to adversity. Researchers have identified an electrical pattern in the brains of genetically identical mice that predicts how well individual animals will fare in stressful situations. The results may eventually help researchers prevent a range of mental illnesses that have been linked with stress.

Some people can handle stressful situations better than others, and it's not all in their genes: Even identical twins show differences in how they respond.

Related Articles


Researchers have identified a specific electrical pattern in the brains of genetically identical mice that predicts how well individual animals will fare in stressful situations.

The findings, published July 29 in Nature Communications, may eventually help researchers prevent potential consequences of chronic stress -- such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other psychiatric disorders -- in people who are prone to these problems.

"In soldiers, we have this dramatic, major stress exposure, and in some individuals it's leading to major issues, such as problems sleeping or being around other people," said senior author Kafui Dzirasa, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical Center and a member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. "If we can find that common trigger or common pathway and tune it, we may be able to prevent the emergence of a range of mental illnesses down the line."

In the new study, Dzirasa's team analyzed the interaction between two interconnected brain areas that control fear and stress responses in both mice and men: the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. The amygdala plays a role in the 'fight-or-flight' response. The prefrontal cortex is involved in planning and other higher-level functions. It suppresses the amygdala's reactivity to danger and helps people continue to function in stressful situations.

Implanting electrodes into the brains of the mice allowed the researchers to listen in on the tempo at which the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala were firing and how tightly the two areas were linked -- with the ultimate goal of figuring whether the electrical pattern of cross talk could help decide how well animals would respond when faced with an acute stressor.

Indeed, in mice that had been subjected to a chronically stressful situation -- daily exposure to an aggressive male mouse for about two weeks -- the degree to which the prefrontal cortex seemed to control amygdala activity was related to how well the animals coped with the stress, the group found.

Next the group looked at how the brain reacted to the first instance of stress, before the mice were put in a chronically stressful situation. The mice more sensitive to chronic stress showed greater activation of their prefrontal cortex-amygdala circuit, compared with resilient mice.

"We were really both surprised and excited to find that this signature was present in the animals before they were chronically stressed," Dzirasa said. "You can find this signature the very first time they were ever exposed to this aggressive dangerous experience."

Dzirasa hopes to use the signatures to come up with potential treatments for stress. "If we pair the signatures and treatments together, can we prevent symptoms from emerging, even when an animal is stressed? That's the first question," he said.

The group also hopes to delve further into the brain, to see whether the circuit-level patterns can interact with genetic variations that confer risk for psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. The new study will enable Dzirasa and other basic researchers to segregate stress-susceptible and resilient animals before they are subjected to stress and look at their molecular, cellular and systemic differences.

This work was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (R37MH073853, R01MH099192), International Mental Health Research Organization RSA, BBRF Sidney R. Baer Jr. Research Prize, and the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Sunil Kumar, Rainbo Hultman, Dalton Hughes, Nadine Michel, Brittany M. Katz, Kafui Dzirasa. Prefrontal cortex reactivity underlies trait vulnerability to chronic social defeat stress. Nature Communications, 2014; 5 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms5537

Cite This Page:

Duke University. "New brain-based marker of stress susceptibility: Finding might help prevent mental illnesses linked with stress." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140729101148.htm>.
Duke University. (2014, July 29). New brain-based marker of stress susceptibility: Finding might help prevent mental illnesses linked with stress. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140729101148.htm
Duke University. "New brain-based marker of stress susceptibility: Finding might help prevent mental illnesses linked with stress." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140729101148.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) It's hard to resist those delicious but fattening carbs we all crave during the winter months, but there are some ways to stay satisfied without consuming the extra calories. Vanessa Freeman (@VanessaFreeTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) More than 100 motorcyclists hit the road to spread awareness messages about Ebola. Nearly 7,000 people have now died from the virus, almost all of them in west Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
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