Nov. 12, 2019 — UTSA researchers are pioneering an innovative brain study that sheds light on how the amygdala portion of the brain functions and could contribute to a better understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers, Alfonso Apicella, an associate professor in the Department of Biology, research associate Alice Bertero, postdoctoral fellow Paul Luc Caroline Feyen, and graduate student Hector Zurita, published their study, “A non-canonical cortico-amygdala inhibitory loop,” in The Journal of Neuroscience, the flagship journal of the Society for Neuroscience. Their research was also featured on the Oct. 23 cover of the journal.
Conditions such as PTSD, anxiety and depression are thought to be linked to the abnormal functioning of the amygdala, which is located within the temporal lobes and plays a key role in processing emotions, actions and cognition.
“This novel research paper provides anatomical and physiological evidence for the existence of a long-range inhibitory pathway from the auditory cortex to the amygdala in the mouse brain,” Apicella said. “For the first time, in our paper we show this emotional pathway.”
Apicella explained that advances in the techniques for labeling individual neuronal cells made it possible to study the individual neurons extending from the auditory cortex to the amygdala.
He added that the inhibitory cortical neurons can alter the activity of the amygdala’s principal neurons and can therefore directly control the output of the amygdala. The neurons contain a substance called somatostatin, and it regulates physiological functions and forms a connection with principal neurons that project to other brain regions outside the amygdala that are involved in fear and aversive behavior.
“The discovery that the amygdala receives both excitatory and inhibitory inputs from that cortex suggests that the timing and relative strength of these inputs can affect the activity of the amygdala,” Acipella said.
Apicella and his research team noted that future experiments should examine whether this is a general mechanism by which sensory stimuli can influence the processes controlled by the amygdala, such as fear/aversive behavior and how the disruption of this pathway can lead to several neurological and psychiatric disorders, such as,Alzheimer’s, anxiety, depression and PTSD.
Research related to this topic will continue in Apicella’s lab. His research group investigates the neural basis of perception. More specifically, the researchers want to understand how cortical microcircuits process sensory information leading to behavioral outcomes.
Learn more about Alfonso Apicella’s Lab at UTSA.
Celebrate UTSA’s 50th Anniversary and share social media posts about the 50th using the hashtag #UTSA50.
Emerging artists work in the full range of traditional methods and materials as well as in interdisciplinary and new media. Themes range from social and cultural critique to investigations that are challenging and exquisite explorations in creative form and image.UTSA Art Gallery, Arts Building, Main Campus
Juan Vallejo’s art conveys his experience as a childhood migrant worker. Opening reception: Thurs, Dec. 5, 6–9 p.m. Free and open to the public.UTSA Terminal 136, Blue Star Arts Complex, 136 Blue St., San Antonio
Portions of Cook Road will be closed for construction related to the new Student Success Center project and Americans with Disabilities Act sidewalk upgrades.Cook Road, Main Campus
Out of the violence comes a silence, then a song. Thus begins an extraordinary night of camaraderie, music and peace. A remarkable true experience, told in the words and songs of the men who lived it. UTSA partners with The Public Theater for this event. Contact the theater at (210) 458-3288 for scheduling requests.Buena Vista Theater, Downtown Campus
Forty-six modular units will be delivered to Main Campus as part of the new Student Success Center project. The units will enter campus at Brennan Avenue and will travel to their final destination, south of the North Paseo Building and Graduate School and Research Building via Tobin Avenue, Bauerle Road and Devine Avenue.Brennan Avenue, Tobin Avenue, Bauerle Road, Devine Avenue, Main Campus
Enjoy two classic holiday performances. Children’s Ballet of San Antonio will present two of The Nutcracker. Our Lady of Guadalupe Church will perform a traditional Pastorela play, a morality tale about shepherds going to Bethlehem and the snares the devil uses to dissuade them. Performances are included with regular ITC admission.UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, 801 E. César E. Chavez Blvd., San Antonio
Celebrating graduating students from the College of Engineering and the College of Liberal and Fine Arts. Guest speaker: Susan Pape '86, chairman of the San Antonio Express-News.Alamodome, 100 Montana St., San Antonio
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