[Paleopsych] kicking fear around with proteins

Steve Hovland shovland at mindspring.com
Sat Nov 19 14:24:52 UTC 2005

I recently ran across a biotech company that is working on
technology to turn on any one of the thousands of enzymes
produced by the body.

Biotech in general is very involved with proteins, which the
body also creates in the thousands.

Perhaps you should be looking at the brains in your thorax
rather than the brains in your cranium :-)

Steve Hovland

  -----Original Message-----
  From: paleopsych-bounces at paleopsych.org [mailto:paleopsych-bounces at paleopsych.org]On Behalf Of HowlBloom at aol.com
  Sent: Friday, November 18, 2005 10:19 PM
  To: paleopsych at paleopsych.org
  Cc: planetbloom at hotmail.com; bdyed at earthlink.net
  Subject: [Paleopsych] kicking fear around with proteins

  Put the following two articles together and you get the following conclusion:  

  The protein stathmin kicks fear  into high gear and the protein gastrin stomps the pedal of fear’s brakes. 

  Gastrin is a protein from the intestines, a protein involved in having a good meal.  So does being well fed should make you fearless?  The folks who made up our clichés may have been more accurate than they knew when they said that people who are fearless “have guts.”


  By the way, I’ve been looking for the stress-handling system in the brain for the last decade.  It looks as if the stathmin and gastrin system may be a part of it.  

  When I came down with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in 1988 and my stress handling system lost its inhibitory abilities and ramped up my stress sensitivity beyond all imagining, was I overloaded with stathmin and stripped of gastrin?  Howard


  Retrieved November 18, 2005, from the World Wide Web  http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn8337 

  Gene turn-off makes meek mice fearless  * 17:00 17 November 2005 * NewScientist.com news service Deactivating a specific gene transforms meek mice into daredevils, researchers have found. The team believe the research might one day enable people suffering from fear – in the form of phobias or anxiety disorders, for example – to be clinically treated.

    The research found that mice lacking an active gene for the protein stathmin are not only more courageous, but are also slower to learn fear responses to pain-associated stimuli, says geneticist Gleb Shumyatsky, at Rutgers University in New Jersey, US.  In the experiments, the stathmin-lacking mice wandered out into the centre of an open box, in defiance of the normal mouse instinct to hide along the box’s walls to avoid potential predators.  And to test learned fear, the mice were exposed to a loud sound followed by a brief electric shock from the floor below them. A day later, normal mice froze when the sound was played again. Stathmin-lacking mice barely reacted to the sound at all. Neural responses  In both mice and humans, the amygdala area of the brain serves as the control centre of basic fear impulses. Stathmin is found almost exclusively in this and related brain areas.  The protein is known to destabilise microtubule structures that help maintain the connections between neurons. This allows the neurons to make new connections, allowing the animal to learn and process fear experiences, Shumyatsky says. Without it, the neural responses are stilted.  The lack of the protein does not appear to affect other learning experiences, as both sets of mice were able to memorise the paths out of mazes equally well. “This is a good sign for an eventual clinical application that could let people deal with their fears in an entirely different way,” Shumyatsky says.  In 2002, Shumyatsky and colleagues published a study on a similar gene encoding for a protein called GRP. But this protein seems only to be associated with learned fear, and would therefore only have clinical implications for conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder.  Stathmin, on the other hand, seems to affect both learned and innate fear, which could lead to treatments for a much broader range of phobias and anxiety disorders, Shumyatsky says.  Journal reference: Cell (DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2005.08.038) Printable version Email to a friend RSS Feed Cover of latest issue of New 



  Site:  ScienceDaily Magazine Page URL: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/12/021213062425.htm  Original Source: Howard Hughes Medical Institute Date Posted: 12/13/2002 Researchers Discover Gene That Controls Ability To Learn Fear Researchers have discovered the first genetic component of a biochemical pathway in the brain that governs the indelible imprinting of fear-related experiences in memory.  The gene identified by researchers at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Columbia University encodes a protein that inhibits the action of the fear-learning circuitry in the brain. Understanding how this protein quells fear may lead to the design of new drugs to treat depression, panic and generalized anxiety disorders.  The findings were reported in the December 13, 2002 issue of the journal Cell, by a research team that included Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigators Eric Kandel at Columbia University and Catherine Dulac at Harvard University. Lead author of the paper was Gleb Shumyatsky, a postdoctoral fellow in Kandel's laboratory at Columbia University. Other members of the research team are at the National Institutes of Health and Harvard Medical School.  According to Kandel, earlier studies indicated that a specific signaling pathway controls fear-related learning, which takes place in a region of the brain called the amygdala. "Given these preliminary analyses, we wanted to take a more systematic approach to obtain a genetic perspective on learned fear," said Kandel.  One of the keys to doing these genetic analyses, Kandel said, was the development of a technique for isolating and comparing the genes of individual cells, which was developed at Columbia by Dulac with HHMI investigator Richard Axel. Shumyatsky applied that technique, called differential screening of single-cell cDNA libraries, to mouse cells to compare the genetic activity of cells from a region of the amygdala called the lateral nucleus, with cells from another region of the brain that is not known to be involved in learned fear. The comparison revealed two candidate genes for fear-related learning that are highly expressed in the amygdala.  The researchers decided to focus further study on one of the genes, Grp, which encodes a short protein called gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP), because they found that this protein has an unusual distribution in the brain and is known to serve as a neurotransmitter. Shumyatsky's analysis revealed that the Grp gene was highly enriched in the lateral nucleus, and in other regions of the brain that feed auditory inputs into the amygdala.  "Gleb's finding that this gene was active not only in the lateral nucleus but also in a number of regions that projected into the lateral nucleus was interesting because it suggested that a whole circuit was involved," said Kandel. Shumyatsky next showed that GRP is expressed by excitatory principal neurons and that its receptor, GRPR, is expressed by inhibitory interneurons. The researchers then undertook collaborative studies with co-author Vadim Bolshakov at Harvard Medical School to characterize cells in the amygdala that expressed receptors for GRP. Those studies in mouse brain slices revealed that GRP acts in the amygdala by exciting a population of inhibitory interneurons in the lateral nucleus that provide feedback and inhibit the principal neurons.

    The researchers next explored whether eliminating GRP's activity could affect the ability to learn fear by studying a strain of knockout mice that lacked the receptor for GRP in the brain.  In behavioral experiments, they first trained both the knockout mice and normal mice to associate an initially neutral tone with a subsequent unpleasant electric shock. As a result of the training, the mouse learns that the neutral tone now predicts danger. After the training, the researchers compared the degree to which the two strains of mice showed fear when exposed to the same tone alone -- by measuring the duration of a characteristic freezing response that the animals exhibit when fearful.  "When we compared the mouse strains, we saw a powerful enhancement of learned fear in the knockout mice," said Kandel. Also, he said, the knockout mice showed an enhancement in the learning-related cellular process known as long-term potentiation.  "It is interesting that we saw no other disturbances in these mice," he said. "They showed no increased pain sensitivity; nor did they exhibit increased instinctive fear in other behavioral studies. So, their defect seemed to be quite specific for the learned aspect of fear," he said. Tests of instinctive fear included comparing how both normal and knockout mice behaved in mazes that exposed them to anxiety-provoking environments such as open or lighted areas.  "These findings reveal a biological basis for what had only been previously inferred from psychological studies -- that instinctive fear, chronic anxiety, is different from acquired fear," said Kandel.  In additional behavioral studies, the researchers found that the normal and knockout mice did not differ in spatial learning abilities involving the hippocampus, but not the amygdala, thus genetically demonstrating that these two anatomical structures are different in their function.  According to Kandel, further understanding of the fear-learning pathway could have important implications for treating anxiety disorders. "Since GRP acts to dampen fear, it might be possible in principle to develop drugs that activate the peptide, representing a completely new approach to treating anxiety," he said. However, he emphasized, the discovery of the action of the Grp gene is only the beginning of a long research effort to reveal the other genes in the fear-learning pathway.  More broadly, said Kandel, the fear-learning pathway might provide an invaluable animal model for a range of mental illnesses. "Although one would ultimately like to develop mouse models for various mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and depression, this is very hard to do because we know very little about the biological foundations of most forms of mental illness," he said. "However, we do know something about the neuroanatomical substrates of anxiety states, including both chronic fear and acute fear. We know they are centered in the amygdala.  "And while I don't want to overstate the case, in studies of fear learning we could well have an excellent beginning for animal models of a severe mental illness. We already knew quite a lot about the neural pathways in the brain that are involved in fear learning. And now, we have a way to understand the genetic and biochemical mechanisms underlying those pathways."  Editor's Note: The original news release can be found here.  Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued for journalists and other members of the public. If you wish to quote from any part of this story, please credit Howard Hughes Medical Institute as the original source.  


  Howard Bloom
  Author of The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History and Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind From The Big Bang to the 21st Century
  Recent Visiting Scholar-Graduate Psychology Department, New York University; Core Faculty Member, The Graduate Institute
  Founder: International Paleopsychology Project; founding board member: Epic of Evolution Society; founding board member, The Darwin Project; founder: The Big Bang Tango Media Lab; member: New York Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Psychological Society, Academy of Political Science, Human Behavior and Evolution Society, International Society for Human Ethology; advisory board member: Institute for Accelerating Change ; executive editor -- New Paradigm book series.
  For information on The International Paleopsychology Project, see: www.paleopsych.org
  for two chapters from 
  The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History, see www.howardbloom.net/lucifer
  For information on Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century, see www.howardbloom.net
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