Cell-type-specific hypothalamic pathways to brainstem drive context-dependent strategies in response to stressors

Mehran Ahmadlou, Maria Giannouli, Jacqueline F M van Vierbergen, Tom van Leeuwen, Wouter Bloem, Janou H W Houba, Maryam Yasamin Shirazi, J Leonie Cazemier, Robin Haak, Mohit Dubey, Fred de Winter, J Alexander Heimel

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


Adaptive behavioral responses to stressors are critical for survival. However, which brain areas orchestrate switching the appropriate stress responses to distinct contexts is an open question. This study aimed to identify the cell-type-specific brain circuitry governing the selection of distinct behavioral strategies in response to stressors. Through novel mouse behavior paradigms, we observed distinct stressor-evoked behaviors in two psycho-spatially distinct contexts characterized by stressors inside or outside the safe zone. The identification of brain regions activated in both conditions revealed the involvement of the dorsomedial hypothalamus (DMH). Further investigation using optogenetics, chemogenetics, and photometry revealed that glutamatergic projections from the DMH to periaqueductal gray (PAG) mediated responses to inside stressors, while GABAergic projections, particularly from tachykinin1-expressing neurons, played a crucial role in coping with outside stressors. These findings elucidate the role of cell-type-specific circuitry from the DMH to the PAG in shaping behavioral strategies in response to stressors. These findings have the potential to advance our understanding of fundamental neurobiological processes and inform the development of novel approaches for managing context-dependent and anxiety-associated pathological conditions such as agoraphobia and claustrophobia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2448-2459.e4
JournalCurrent Biology
Publication statusPublished - 08 May 2024


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