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AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 1, 2017

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‘Anxiety Cells’ Identified in the Brain’s Hippocampus

Columbia and UCSF neuroscientists have found, in mice, that certain cells fire when the animal is anxious, triggering anxiety-related behaviors

 

Do your palms sweat when you walk down a poorly lit street at night? That feeling may be traced to the firing of newly identified “anxiety” cells deep inside your brain, according to new research from neuroscientists at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). 

The researchers found the cells in the brains of mice, inside a structure called the hippocampus. But the cells probably also exist in humans, says Rene Hen, PhD, a professor of psychiatry at CUIMC and one of the study’s senior investigators.

“We call these anxiety cells because they only fire when the animals are in places that are innately frightening to them,” Hen says. “For a mouse, that’s an open area where they’re more exposed to predators, or an elevated platform.”

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