Scientists have identified a "fear" gene in mice that when removed turns them into daredevils, seemingly heedless to inborn fears and risky...
Scientists have identified a “fear” gene in mice that when removed turns them into daredevils, seemingly heedless to inborn fears and risky situations that normal mice have learned to avoid.
The gene, stathmin, controls the production of a protein linked to the creation of long-term fear patterns, said Rutgers University geneticist Gleb Shumyatsky, who led the study, published Friday in the journal Cell.
Because the brain system that regulates fear is similar in all mammals, the research could help develop drugs that reduce anxiety by inhibiting the gene’s expression.
“The gene functions primarily in the amygdala, a part of the lower brain long recognized as a nimble “first responder” to danger in all mammals.
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In one test, designed to assess inborn fear, mice were placed on a platform, which had low mazelike walls on one end and an open area on the other end. The mice lacking the stathmin gene explored the open area, while the others remained close to the walls for greater security.