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Nat Neurosci. 2016 May;19(5):734-741. doi: 10.1038/nn.4274. Epub 2016 Mar 28.

Agouti-related peptide neural circuits mediate adaptive behaviors in the starved state.

Author information

1
Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.
2
Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon, USA.
3
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the Department of Pharmacology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.
4
Institut de Neurociències and Departament de Biologia Cel·lular, Fisiologia i Immunologia, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain.
5
Division of Neuroscience, Oregon National Primate Research Center, Oregon Health &Science University, Beaverton, Oregon, USA.

Abstract

In the face of starvation, animals will engage in high-risk behaviors that would normally be considered maladaptive. Starving rodents, for example, will forage in areas that are more susceptible to predators and will also modulate aggressive behavior within a territory of limited or depleted nutrients. The neural basis of these adaptive behaviors likely involves circuits that link innate feeding, aggression and fear. Hypothalamic agouti-related peptide (AgRP)-expressing neurons are critically important for driving feeding and project axons to brain regions implicated in aggression and fear. Using circuit-mapping techniques in mice, we define a disynaptic network originating from a subset of AgRP neurons that project to the medial nucleus of the amygdala and then to the principal bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, which suppresses territorial aggression and reduces contextual fear. We propose that AgRP neurons serve as a master switch capable of coordinating behavioral decisions relative to internal state and environmental cues.

PMID:
27019015
PMCID:
PMC4846501
DOI:
10.1038/nn.4274
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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