Chemogenetic dissection of sex-specific fear circuits

2016 Seed Grant
Rebecca M. Shansky, Ph.D.
Northeastern University

Although a majority of the population will experience a severe trauma at some point in their lifetime, only about 10% of those people will go on to develop PTSD, which suggests that there are discrete neurobiological factors that confer susceptibility or resilience. Because PTSD is more prevalent in women, identifying sex-specific mechanisms of fear and emotion regulation is critical to the development of more personalized disease prevention and treatment. We recently discovered that a subset of female rats display an active fear response that is not observed in males. A better understanding of the neural circuits that mediate this novel behavior could lead to insight into what makes women susceptible to or resilient against PTSD. This seed project will begin to define the role of prefrontal cortex circuits in fear response strategies, and lay groundwork for future investigations into the cellular and molecular mechanisms that mediate the switch between active and passive fear responses.