APR 18, 2018 06:23 PM PDT

Some Emotions may be Regulated in the Hippocampus

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch
2 8 271

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
JUN 05, 2018
JUN 05, 2018
A Look Back at the Human Genome Project
Some of the participants in this landmark project tell some interesting stories about the work.
JUN 11, 2018
JUN 11, 2018
Post-Trauma Treatment Relieves System-Wide Immune Reaction
The immune response after a traumatic physical injury is essentially the same as a body-wide bacterial infection: inflammatory, systemic, and lethal. From
JUN 19, 2018
JUN 19, 2018
The Impact of Antibiotics on Gut Microbes
Antibiotics had a dramatic impact on the microbes of the GI tract in a research model.
JUN 30, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
JUN 30, 2018
Gene-editor Eases Autism Symptoms in Mouse Model
This is the first time a gene alteration has successfully changed behaviors associated with autism.
JUL 03, 2018
Clinical & Molecular DX
JUL 03, 2018
Blood Test Deciphers Your Internal Rhythm
A personalized reading of your circadian rhythm could help scientists prescribe the exact time of day that drug treatments will be the most effective. A ne
JUL 12, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
JUL 12, 2018
New and Improved Ways to Create Stem Cells
New techniques that can make stem cells could have a big impact on therapeutics.
Loading Comments...