Neural substrates underlying survival behaviours

Medway Research Seminars 2017-18
Wednesday 1st November 2017, 13.00 - 14.00
Jellicoe Building Room J106


Dr. Stella Koutsikou

Medway School of Pharmacy, Universities of Greenwich and Kent at Medway

The ability to interact with challenging environments requires coordination of sensory, autonomic and motor systems that underpin appropriate survival behaviours. Neural pathways involved in survival behaviours are highly conserved across mammalian species and there is a consensus that understanding these pathways is a fundamental step towards understanding the neural circuits underpinning emotion in humans and developing effective treatments for prevalent mood disorders.

The midbrain periaqueductal grey (PAG) sits at the heart of the survival neural network and has long been identified as a pivotal component of the so-called emotional-motor system. To date, studies have focused largely on the sensory and autonomic consequences of descending control from the PAG. In this context, effects on motor activity have received very little attention, despite evidence of a pivotal role for the PAG in coordinating motor responses essential to survival (e.g. freezing in response to fear).

During this research seminar, I will provide an overview of ‘top down control’ of sensory functions from the PAG, including selective control of different modalities of sensory, including proprioceptive, information forwarded to a major supsraspinal motor control centre - the cerebellum. Recent evidence of PAG control of motor outflow will also be discussed. Finally, the integration of sensorimotor functions by the midbrain is considered, as part of coordinated defence behaviours that enable an animal to be ready and react to threat.

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Last Updated 19/10/2017