APR 18, 2018 06:23 PM PDT

Some Emotions may be Regulated in the Hippocampus

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

The hippocampus is a part of the brain known to have important roles in different types of memory and associated disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia. A new study showed that one region of the hippocampus might help regulate emotions. The work, reported in Current Biology, has suggested that it may also provide insight into multiple mental disorders including anxiety, depression, and addiction; it could change how this part of the brain is understood.

"What this shows is that we may need to rethink how the hippocampus processes information," explained Rutsuko Ito, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

In this work, Ito’s team used rats to study the ventral hippocampus, a region of their brain that models the human anterior hippocampus, which has been suggested by some previous research to impact emotions. The investigators focused on specific parts of the ventral hippocampus, CA1, and CA3, and used a psychology model called approach-avoidance conflict processing.

The model assesses how anxiety and fear are dealt with in the animal brain, offering a decision of whether to avoid or pursue something that has good and bad aspects. "One good example is: imagine going to a restaurant you love, but the moment you walk in you see someone you can't stand - do you go in, or avoid going in,” explained Associate Professor Andy Lee, who collaborated on the research.

When CA1 was taken out of action temporarily, conflict avoidance increased, while if CA3 was inactivated, conflict approach increased.

Ito stressed the importance of the findings because it had been thought that one circuit that included both CA1 and CA3 processed information. It was hypothesized that information flowed in one direction from a brain region called the dentate gyrus to the CA1, and next to CA3. If so, CA1 and CA3 would both have the same effect.

Assistant Professor Rutsuko Ito (left) and postdoctoral fellow Annett Schumacher in the Neurobiology of Learning and Motivation Lab at U of T Scarborough. / Credit: U of T Scarborough

"But that's not the case, the CA1 and CA3 in the ventral hippocampus seem to do very opposite things in relation to conflict processing," noted Ito. "It's this strange bi-directional or oppositional effect, and that goes against traditional thinking of how information processing takes place in this part of the brain.”

Motivational behavior may also be controlled or influenced in this area, as such, it could offer insight into mental illness. Avoidance behaviors, which are probably influenced in this area, may also play into anxiety or depression.

Lee is continuing to investigate how subsections of the hippocampus impact conflict processing in people.

"Some patients have lesions to certain areas of this part of the brain, so hopefully we can assess them to see what particular aspects of approach-avoidance behavior may or may not be impacted," he concluded.

 

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! Via University of Toronto, Current Biology

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
JUL 07, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
JUL 07, 2018
Cause of Gender Differences in Neurodevelopmental Disorders is ID'ed
Gender is a known factor in the development of neurological disorders. Now scientists think they know why....
JUL 31, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
JUL 31, 2018
A Brand New Geometric Shape
Cell use this shape when packing together to form structures....
AUG 08, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
AUG 08, 2018
Changing White Fat to Brown Fat
Not all fat is the same. Brown fat is thought to be fat healthier than white fat....
AUG 19, 2018
Technology
AUG 19, 2018
CRISPR Technology Seeks To Eliminate Genetic Diseases
Researchers at the University of Illinois have adapted to new CRISPR gene-editing technology that causes the cell's internal machinery to skip over a s...
SEP 04, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
SEP 04, 2018
Powerful Imaging Reveals Immune Cells on Patrol
With a tool called lattice light sheet microscopy, scientists can view biological processes as they happen in live cells....
SEP 07, 2018
Videos
SEP 07, 2018
The Therapeutic Potential of Venoms
Over 220,000 species, around 15 percent of the world's described animals, are known to be venomous....
Loading Comments...