Scientists light up nerve cells with lasers to illuminate amygdala’s role in stalking, chomping
Barry Green/John B. Pierce Laboratory
The part of the brain that governs emotions such as fear and anxiety also helps mice hunt. That structure, the amygdala, orchestrates a mouse’s ability to both stalk a cricket and deliver a fatal bite, scientists report January 12 in Cell.
Scientists made select nerve cells in mice’s brains sensitive to light, and then used lasers to activate specific groups of those cells. By turning different cells on and off, the researchers found two separate sets of nerve cells relaying hunting-related messages from the amygdala’s central nucleus. One set controlled the mice’s ability to chase their prey. The other affected their ability to deliver a solid chomp and kill a cricket.
“They’ve found these two behaviors — that are part of something we think of being very complex — are controlled by these two circuits,” says Cris Niell, a neuroscientist at