MIT neuroscientist Kay Tye finds a discrete brain circuit that controls social interaction, which is impaired in many brain disorders.
Impaired social interaction is a common feature of autism, schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety, and it contributes to many of the problems that people with these conditions face. That is particularly true for adolescents with autism spectrum disorder, of whom about 40 percent are also diagnosed with anxiety.
A new study from Kay Tye’s laboratory at MIT found a circuit in the brain that might explain the link between impaired social interaction and anxiety in so many disorders. The circuit connects the amygdala, well known for its role in anxiety, with the hippocampus, important for learning, memory, and emotional responses.
Recently, the Tye Lab found that a discrete circuit connecting a subregion of the amygdala (the basolateral amygdala, or BLA) with the ventral hippocampus (vHPC) controlled anxiety. Activating it increased anxiety; inhibiting it decreased anxiety. In the latest study, the lab focused on this same circuit’s ability to modulate social behavior. Both studies were led by research associate Ada Felix-Ortiz… Original Article »