Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research, Volume: 45, Issue: 4, Published: 2012
  • Introduction to III Forum on the Neurobiology of Stress, Araraquara, SP, Brazil, September 8-10, 2011

    Brandão, Marcus Lira
  • Neural regulation of the stress response: glucocorticoid feedback mechanisms

    Herman, J.P.; McKlveen, J.M.; Solomon, M.B.; Carvalho-Netto, E.; Myers, B.

    Abstract in English:

    The mammalian stress response is an integrated physiological and psychological reaction to real or perceived adversity. Glucocorticoids are an important component of this response, acting to redistribute energy resources to both optimize survival in the face of challenge and to restore homeostasis after the immediate challenge has subsided. Release of glucocorticoids is mediated by the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, driven by a neural signal originating in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN). Stress levels of glucocorticoids bind to glucocorticoid receptors in multiple body compartments, including the brain, and consequently have wide-reaching actions. For this reason, glucocorticoids serve a vital function in negative feedback inhibition of their own secretion. Negative feedback inhibition is mediated by a diverse collection of mechanisms, including fast, non-genomic feedback at the level of the PVN, stress-shut-off at the level of the limbic system, and attenuation of ascending excitatory input through destabilization of mRNAs encoding neuropeptide drivers of the HPA axis. In addition, there is evidence that glucocorticoids participate in stress activation via feed-forward mechanisms at the level of the amygdala. Feedback deficits are associated with numerous disease states, underscoring the necessity for adequate control of glucocorticoid homeostasis. Thus, rather than having a single, defined feedback ‘switch’, control of the stress response requires a wide-reaching feedback ‘network’ that coordinates HPA activity to suit the overall needs of multiple body systems.
  • Contrasting effects of nitric oxide and corticotropin- releasing factor within the dorsal periaqueductal gray on defensive behavior and nociception in mice

    Miguel, T.T.; Gomes, K.S.; Nunes-de-Souza, R.L.

    Abstract in English:

    The anxiogenic and antinociceptive effects produced by glutamate N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor activation within the dorsal periaqueductal gray (dPAG) matter have been related to nitric oxide (NO) production, since injection of NO synthase (NOS) inhibitors reverses these effects. dPAG corticotropin-releasing factor receptor (CRFr) activation also induces anxiety-like behavior and antinociception, which, in turn, are selectively blocked by local infusion of the CRF type 1 receptor (CRFr1) antagonist, NBI 27914 [5-chloro-4-(N-(cyclopropyl)methyl-N-propylamino)-2-methyl-6-(2,4,6-trichlorophenyl)aminopyridine]. Here, we determined whether i) the blockade of the dPAG by CRFr1 attenuates the anxiogenic/antinociceptive effects induced by local infusion of the NO donor, NOC-9 [6-(2-hydroxy-1-methyl-2-nitrosohydrazino)-N-methyl-1-hexanamine], and ii) the anxiogenic/antinociceptive effects induced by intra-dPAG CRF are prevented by local infusion of Nω-propyl-L-arginine (NPLA), a neuronal NOS inhibitor, in mice. Male Swiss mice (12 weeks old, 25-35 g, N = 8-14/group) were stereotaxically implanted with a 7-mm cannula aimed at the dPAG. Intra-dPAG NOC-9 (75 nmol) produced defensive-like behavior (jumping and running) and antinociception (assessed by the formalin test). Both effects were reversed by prior local infusion of NBI 27914 (2 nmol). Conversely, intra-dPAG NPLA (0.4 nmol) did not modify the anxiogenic/antinociceptive effects of CRF (150 pmol). These results suggest that CRFr1 plays an important role in the defensive behavior and antinociception produced by NO within the dPAG. In contrast, the anxiogenic and antinociceptive effects produced by intra-dPAG CRF are not related to NO synthesis in this limbic midbrain structure.
  • The influence of stress on fear memory processes

    Martijena, I.D.; Molina, V.A.

    Abstract in English:

    It is well recognized that stressful experiences promote robust emotional memories, which are well remembered. The amygdaloid complex, principally the basolateral complex (BLA), plays a pivotal role in fear memory and in the modulation of stress-induced emotional responses. A large number of reports have revealed that GABAergic interneurons provide a powerful inhibitory control of the activity of projecting glutamatergic neurons in the BLA. Indeed, a reduced GABAergic control in the BLA is essential for the stress-induced influence on the emergence of associative fear memory and on the generation of long-term potentiation (LTP) in BLA neurons. The extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) subfamily of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathway in the BLA plays a central role in the consolidation process and synaptic plasticity. In support of the view that stress facilitates long-term fear memory, stressed animals exhibited a phospho-ERK2 (pERK2) increase in the BLA, suggesting the involvement of this mechanism in the promoting influence of threatening stimuli on the consolidation fear memory. Moreover, the occurrence of reactivation-induced lability is prevented when fear memory is encoded under intense stressful conditions since the memory trace remains immune to disruption after recall in previously stressed animals. Thus, the underlying mechanism in retrieval-induced instability seems not to be functional in memories formed under stress. All these findings are indicative that stress influences both the consolidation and reconsolidation fear memory processes. Thus, it seems reasonable to propose that the emotional state generated by an environmental challenge critically modulates the formation and maintenance of long-term fear memory.
  • Estrous cycle and stress: influence of progesterone on the female brain

    Lovick, T.A.

    Abstract in English:

    The female brain operates in a constantly changing chemical milieu caused by cyclical changes in gonadal hormones during the estrous cycle (menstrual cycle in women). Such hormones are highly lipophilic and pass readily from the plasma to the brain where they can influence neuronal function. It is becoming clear that the rapid reduction in peripheral circulating progesterone, which occurs during the late diestrous phase of the cycle, can trigger a withdrawal-like response, in which changes in GABA A receptor expression render hyper-responsive certain brain areas involved in processing responses to stressful stimuli. The periaqueductal gray matter (PAG) is recognised as an important region for integrating anxiety/defence responses. Withdrawal from progesterone, via actions of its neuroactive metabolite allopregnanolone, triggers up-regulation of extrasynaptic GABA A receptors on GABAergic neurons in the PAG. As a consequence, ongoing GABAergic tone on the output cells decreases, leading to an increase in functional excitability of the circuitry and enhanced responsiveness to stressful stimuli during the late diestrous phase. These changes during late diestrus could be prevented by short-term neurosteroid administration, timed to produce a more gradual fall in the peripheral concentration of allopregnanolone than the rapid decrease that occurs naturally, thus removing the trigger for the central withdrawal response.
  • What ethologically based models have taught us about the neural systems underlying fear and anxiety

    Canteras, N.S.; Mota-Ortiz, S.R.; Motta, S.C.

    Abstract in English:

    Classical Pavlovian fear conditioning to painful stimuli has provided the generally accepted view of a core system centered in the central amygdala to organize fear responses. Ethologically based models using other sources of threat likely to be expected in a natural environment, such as predators or aggressive dominant conspecifics, have challenged this concept of a unitary core circuit for fear processing. We discuss here what the ethologically based models have told us about the neural systems organizing fear responses. We explored the concept that parallel paths process different classes of threats, and that these different paths influence distinct regions in the periaqueductal gray - a critical element for the organization of all kinds of fear responses. Despite this parallel processing of different kinds of threats, we have discussed an interesting emerging view that common cortical-hippocampal-amygdalar paths seem to be engaged in fear conditioning to painful stimuli, to predators and, perhaps, to aggressive dominant conspecifics as well. Overall, the aim of this review is to bring into focus a more global and comprehensive view of the systems organizing fear responses.
  • Panic-like defensive behavior but not fear-induced antinociception is differently organized by dorsomedial and posterior hypothalamic nuclei of Rattus norvegicus (Rodentia, Muridae)

    Biagioni, A.F.; Silva, J.A.; Coimbra, N.C.

    Abstract in English:

    The hypothalamus is a forebrain structure critically involved in the organization of defensive responses to aversive stimuli. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic dysfunction in dorsomedial and posterior hypothalamic nuclei is implicated in the origin of panic-like defensive behavior, as well as in pain modulation. The present study was conducted to test the difference between these two hypothalamic nuclei regarding defensive and antinociceptive mechanisms. Thus, the GABA A antagonist bicuculline (40 ng/0.2 µL) or saline (0.9% NaCl) was microinjected into the dorsomedial or posterior hypothalamus in independent groups. Innate fear-induced responses characterized by defensive attention, defensive immobility and elaborate escape behavior were evoked by hypothalamic blockade of GABA A receptors. Fear-induced defensive behavior organized by the posterior hypothalamus was more intense than that organized by dorsomedial hypothalamic nuclei. Escape behavior elicited by GABA A receptor blockade in both the dorsomedial and posterior hypothalamus was followed by an increase in nociceptive threshold. Interestingly, there was no difference in the intensity or in the duration of fear-induced antinociception shown by each hypothalamic division presently investigated. The present study showed that GABAergic dysfunction in nuclei of both the dorsomedial and posterior hypothalamus elicit panic attack-like defensive responses followed by fear-induced antinociception, although the innate fear-induced behavior originates differently in the posterior hypothalamus in comparison to the activity of medial hypothalamic subdivisions.
  • On the relationships between ultrasonic calling and anxiety-related behavior in rats

    Schwarting, R.K.W.; Wöhr, M.

    Abstract in English:

    In the present review, the phenomenon of ultrasonic vocalization in rats will be outlined, including the three classes of vocalizations, namely 40-kHz calls of pups, and 22- and 50-kHz calls of juvenile and adult rats, their general relevance to behavioral neuroscience, and their special relevance to research on anxiety, fear, and defense mechanisms. Here, the emphasis will be placed on 40- and 22-kHz calls, since they are typical for various situations with aversive properties. Among other topics, we will discuss whether such behavioral signals can index a certain affective state, and how these signals can be used in social neuroscience, especially with respect to communication. Furthermore, we will address the phenomenon of inter-individual variability in ultrasonic calling and what we currently know about the mechanisms, which may determine such variability. Finally, we will address the current knowledge on the neural and pharmacological mechanisms underlying 22-kHz ultrasonic vocalization, which show a substantial overlap with mechanisms known from other research on fear and anxiety, such as those involving the periaqueductal gray or the amygdala.
  • Involvement of midbrain tectum neurokinin-mediated mechanisms in fear and anxiety

    Brenes, J.C.; Broiz, A.C.; Bassi, G.S.; Schwarting, R.K.W.; Brandão, M.L.

    Abstract in English:

    Electrical stimulation of midbrain tectum structures, particularly the dorsal periaqueductal gray (dPAG) and inferior colliculus (IC), produces defensive responses, such as freezing and escape behavior. Freezing also ensues after termination of dPAG stimulation (post-stimulation freezing). These defensive reaction responses are critically mediated by γ-aminobutyric acid and 5-hydroxytryptamine mechanisms in the midbrain tectum. Neurokinins (NKs) also play a role in the mediation of dPAG stimulation-evoked fear, but how NK receptors are involved in the global processing and expression of fear at the level of the midbrain tectum is yet unclear. The present study investigated the role of NK-1 receptors in unconditioned defensive behavior induced by electrical stimulation of the dPAG and IC of male Wistar rats. Spantide (100 pmol/0.2 μL), a selective NK-1 antagonist, injected into these midbrain structures had anti-aversive effects on defensive responses and distress ultrasonic vocalizations induced by stimulation of the dPAG but not of the IC. Moreover, intra-dPAG injections of spantide did not influence post-stimulation freezing or alter exploratory behavior in rats subjected to the elevated plus maze. These results suggest that NK-1 receptors are mainly involved in the mediation of defensive behavior organized in the dPAG. Dorsal periaqueductal gray-evoked post-stimulation freezing was not affected by intra-dPAG injections of spantide, suggesting that NK-1-mediated mechanisms are only involved in the output mechanisms of defensive behavior and not involved in the processing of ascending aversive information from the dPAG.
  • Fine-tuning of defensive behaviors in the dorsal periaqueductal gray by atypical neurotransmitters

    Fogaça, M.V.; Lisboa, S.F.; Aguiar, D.C.; Moreira, F.A.; Gomes, F.V.; Casarotto, P.C.; Guimarães, F.S.

    Abstract in English:

    This paper presents an up-to-date review of the evidence indicating that atypical neurotransmitters such as nitric oxide (NO) and endocannabinoids (eCBs) play an important role in the regulation of aversive responses in the periaqueductal gray (PAG). Among the results supporting this role, several studies have shown that inhibitors of neuronal NO synthase or cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) receptor agonists cause clear anxiolytic responses when injected into this region. The nitrergic and eCB systems can regulate the activity of classical neurotransmitters such as glutamate and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) that control PAG activity. We propose that they exert a ‘fine-tuning’ regulatory control of defensive responses in this area. This control, however, is probably complex, which may explain the usually bell-shaped dose-response curves observed with drugs that act on NO- or CB1-mediated neurotransmission. Even if the mechanisms responsible for this complex interaction are still poorly understood, they are beginning to be recognized. For example, activation of transient receptor potential vanilloid type-1 channel (TRPV1) receptors by anandamide seems to counteract the anxiolytic effects induced by CB1 receptor activation caused by this compound. Further studies, however, are needed to identify other mechanisms responsible for this fine-tuning effect.
  • New perspective on the pathophysiology of panic: merging serotonin and opioids in the periaqueductal gray

    Graeff, F.G.

    Abstract in English:

    Panic disorder patients are vulnerable to recurrent panic attacks. Two neurochemical hypotheses have been proposed to explain this susceptibility. The first assumes that panic patients have deficient serotonergic inhibition of neurons localized in the dorsal periaqueductal gray matter of the midbrain that organize defensive reactions to cope with proximal threats and of sympathomotor control areas of the rostral ventrolateral medulla that generate most of the neurovegetative symptoms of the panic attack. The second suggests that endogenous opioids buffer normal subjects from the behavioral and physiological manifestations of the panic attack, and their deficit brings about heightened suffocation sensitivity and separation anxiety in panic patients, making them more vulnerable to panic attacks. Experimental results obtained in rats performing one-way escape in the elevated T-maze, an animal model of panic, indicate that the inhibitory action of serotonin on defense is connected with activation of endogenous opioids in the periaqueductal gray. This allows reconciliation of the serotonergic and opioidergic hypotheses of panic pathophysiology, the periaqueductal gray being the fulcrum of serotonin-opioid interaction.
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