In Brief: Researchers provide insight into the chemistry of fear

In Brief

Researchers provide insight into the chemistry of fear

Published: October, 2007

In experiments involving mice, researchers at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory and Howard Hughes Medical Institute report that they have identified a chemical pathway that may underlie the persistence of debilitating fear following a traumatic event.

The researchers used genetically engineered mice in which production of a chemical known as Cdk5, produced in the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in storing memories, can be controlled through the addition of doxycycline (a common antibiotic) in the diet. The mice were placed in a new environment and exposed to mild foot shocks — in other words, subjected to classic Pavlovian fear conditioning — which resulted in a normal "freezing in place" response.

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