Today I was reading a neuroscience paper on the zona incerta of the brain. This paper was the first time I had ever heard about this incredibly underrated brain region. The ZI is a subthalamic region that has proven to be of great importance in terms of treatment for various psychological issues tested in mice model. The paper that I had read shed light on the activation of the ZI leading to the attenuation of fear, but only maladaptive fear. The mice were classically conditioned into being fearful of a certain stimulus. Upon trigger of the stimulus, they had tried to escape. When the ZI was activated using viral injections, the rate of expressing fear had significantly gone down. To further confirm their results, they used viral injections to inhibit the ZI, and as expected, the mice had a higher rate of exhibiting fear. They even tried to activate the GABAergic neurons to the ZI, which lead to the decrease in fear generalization. This had confused me slightly as GABAergic neurons are responsible for inhibitory responses. However, my professor later explained that it worked as a double negative - the GABAergic neurons inhibited possibly another set of neurons which were stopping the ZI from getting activated. The paper provided hope for PTSD, anxiety disorder etc. to combat maldaptive fear and quite frankly interested me into looking further into how the ZI affects our cognitive abilities and how it can be used for other disorders.
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