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Neuroscience. 2005;130(4):1055-67.

Functional mapping of the prosencephalic systems involved in organizing predatory behavior in rats.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Institute of Biomedical Sciences, University of São Paulo, Avenida Lineu Prestes, 1524, CEP 05508-900 São Paulo, SP, Brazil.


The study of the neural basis of predatory behavior has been largely neglected over the recent years. Using an ethologically based approach, we presently delineate the prosencephalic systems mobilized during predation by examining Fos immunoreactivity in rats performing insect hunting. These results were further compared with those obtained from animals killed after the early nocturnal surge of food ingestion. First, predatory behavior was associated with a distinct Fos up-regulation in the ventrolateral caudoputamen at intermediate rostro-caudal levels, suggesting a possible candidate to organize the stereotyped sequence of actions seen during insect hunting. Insect predation also presented conspicuous mobilization of a neural network formed by a distinct amygdalar circuit (i.e. the postpiriform-transition area, the anterior part of cortical nucleus, anterior part of basomedial nucleus, posterior part of basolateral nucleus, and medial part of central nucleus) and affiliated sites in the bed nuclei of the stria terminalis (i.e. the rhomboid nucleus) and in the hypothalamus (i.e. the parasubthalamic nucleus). Accordingly, this network is likely to encode prey-related motivational values, such as prey's odor and taste, and to influence autonomic and motor control accompanying predatory eating. Notably, regular food intake was also associated with a relatively weak Fos up-regulation in this network. However, during regular surge of food intake, we observed a much larger mobilization in hypothalamic sites related to the homeostatic control of eating, namely, the arcuate nucleus and autonomic parts of the paraventricular nucleus. Overall, the present findings suggest potential neural systems involved in integrating prey-related motivational values and in organizing the stereotyped sequences of action seen during predation. Moreover, the comparison with regular food intake contrasts putative neural mechanisms controlling predatory related eating vs. regular food intake.

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