Unit for Research on the Neurobiology of Anxiety and Fear



What are the physiological mechanisms at the basis of fear and anxiety ? How is it that certain noises in the middle of the night can scare us, while a similar sound during daytime has no such effect ? Which mechanisms underlie our fear thresholds and our bodily reactions to fear ? It seems that there are individual levels and sustained anxiety and fear can manifest themselves in various ways : in one person they can lead to cardiovascular problems while in others the gastrointestinal system starts to give problems. The precise physiological reasons for these, however, remain still largely unknown.

It is these kinds of questions to which our group is trying to find answers. We meanwhile know that one region in the brain is particularly involved in our anxiety and fear responses : the amygdala, a cluster of nuclei situated in the temporal lobe, anterior to the hippocampus with which is maintains strong anatomical and functional connections. The amygdala receives a large variety of different sensory inputs (auditif, visual, olfactory and gustatory) and projects to a great number of nuclei in the brain stem that control our visceral reactions. To study the regulation of these functions by the amygdala we use the rat as animal model.

The rat is a very interactif companion with an important social life. It resembles us in many aspects. The approach we have chosen consists of a combination of in vitro and in vivo experiments. For the in vitro part, we have established in Cery a laboratory with various electrophysiological set-ups to record neurophysiological signalling in slices of rat brain using extracellular, intracellular and whole-cell patch-clamp methods. For the in vivo part, we use telemetric devices that allow us to measure physiological responses of animal that are exposed to light fearful stimuli. In this was we can follow increases in heart rate, blood pressure respiratory rhythm or intestinal motility in the freely behaving rat on a continuous basis.

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Unit for Research on the Neurobiology of Anxiety and Fear
Centre de neurosciences psychiatriques
Route de Cery 11 B
CH-1008 Prilly-Lausanne
 Last updated on 29/06/2020 at 15:59