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Role of glucocorticoid, endocannabinoid and noradrenaline interactions during aversive conditioning in mice

Grant number: 15/09116-7
Support Opportunities:Scholarships abroad - Research Internship - Post-doctor
Effective date (Start): October 01, 2015
Effective date (End): September 26, 2016
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Pharmacology - Neuropsychopharmacology
Principal Investigator:Norberto Cysne Coimbra
Grantee:Rafael Carvalho Almada
Supervisor: Carsten T. Wotjak
Host Institution: Faculdade de Medicina de Ribeirão Preto (FMRP). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Ribeirão Preto , SP, Brazil
Research place: Max Planck Society, Munich, Germany  
Associated to the scholarship:12/22681-7 - Involvement of Opioid and Endocanabinoid Receptors of the Substantia Nigra, Pars Reticulata, in the Modulation of the Activity of Nigro-Tectal GABAergic Pathways during the Organization of Defensive Behaviour of Mice Confronted with Venomous Snakes, BP.PD


Anxiety disorders belong to the most common psychiatric disorders with enormous burden to the patient and the society. Many of them are precipitated by stress and associated with exaggerated fear responses, which often result from classical and operant conditioning processes. In this context, studies in animal models revealed the importance of the two stress hormone systems with adrenaline/ noradrenaline and corticosterone as the main effectors. There is a close interdependence between these two systems at various brain structures implicated in the formation of fear memories, including the basolateral amygdala (BLA). At the same time, there are hints for an additional involvement of the endocannabinoid system. For instance, corticosterone has the potential to activate endocannabinoid signaling which in turn affects noradrenaline release, by yet unknown mechanisms. This project will study the neurochemical underpinnings of the fear memory enhancing effects of corticosterone. Specifically we will (i) validate memory-enhancing effects of corticosterone in contextual and auditory-cued fear conditioning in mice; (ii) demonstrate the involvement of glucocorticoid receptors (GR) at level of the BLA and dissect the neuronal subpopulation affected by corticosterone, using cell-type specific GR-KO; (iii) demonstrate the involvement of noradrenaline signaling by optogenetic means; and (iv) assess the contribution of cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) on GABAergic neurons. We hypothesize that corticosterone-mediated activation of endocannabinoid signaling reduces GABA release and, thereby, unleashes noradrenaline transmission which promotes the formation of fear memories. Together, this unique undertaking is combining cutting-edge genetic, optical and neurochemical techniques to assess the multiple interactions of three different classes of neuromessengers (steroid hormones, monoamines and lipidergic transmitters) during the formation of fear memories. The experiments will not only broaden our knowledge about such processes in mice, but may provide novel strategies for the treatment of psychiatric diseases which are associated with exaggerated fear responses.

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Scientific publications
(References retrieved automatically from Web of Science and SciELO through information on FAPESP grants and their corresponding numbers as mentioned in the publications by the authors)
ALMADA, RAFAEL C.; GENEWSKY, ANDREAS J.; HEINZ, DANIEL E.; KAPLICK, PAUL M.; COIMBRA, NORBERTO C.; WOTJAK, CARSTEN T.. Stimulation of the Nigrotectal Pathway at the Level of the Superior Colliculus Reduces Threat Recognition and Causes a Shift From Avoidance to Approach Behavior. FRONTIERS IN NEURAL CIRCUITS, v. 12, . (15/09116-7)

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