At the heart of our research is the question of how the mammalian brain creates basic, evolutionary conserved emotions and the corresponding behaviors driven by motor programs. In particular, we are interested in fear and anxiety, defensive brain states that are evoked by threatening stimuli and are characterized by a range of hormonal, behavioral and autonomic adaptations.
We use state-of-the-art methodology, such as in vivo electrophysiological recordings and calcium-imaging of defined neuronal subpopulations, optogenetics, cardiac measures and neuroanatomical tracings to gain a more detailed, and mechanistic level of analysis of the neuronal substrates underlying defensive brain states and their corresponding bodily functions. These technologies are applied in and combined with classic and semi-naturalistic behavioral fear and anxiety tests in rodents.
The focus for our future research will be on how neuronal circuits integrate bottom-up information about bodily states with top-down locomotor and visceromotor control to establish different fear and anxiety states. This will help to elucidate pathophysiological changes within these basal processes that ultimately cause psychiatric symptoms. We aim to contribute to a better understanding of the neuronal circuits that underlie brain-body interactions in fear and anxiety, and to develop models for targeted "circuit therapy" with enhanced specificity to treat anxiety disorders.
The Defense Lab's Research