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The participation of cortical amygdala in innate, odour-driven behaviour

Nature volume 515, pages 269273 (13 November 2014) | Download Citation

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Abstract

Innate behaviours are observed in naive animals without prior learning or experience, suggesting that the neural circuits that mediate these behaviours are genetically determined and stereotyped. The neural circuits that convey olfactory information from the sense organ to the cortical and subcortical olfactory centres have been anatomically defined1,2,3, but the specific pathways responsible for innate responses to volatile odours have not been identified. Here we devise genetic strategies that demonstrate that a stereotyped neural circuit that transmits information from the olfactory bulb to cortical amygdala is necessary for innate aversive and appetitive behaviours. Moreover, we use the promoter of the activity-dependent gene arc to express the photosensitive ion channel, channelrhodopsin, in neurons of the cortical amygdala activated by odours that elicit innate behaviours. Optical activation of these neurons leads to appropriate behaviours that recapitulate the responses to innate odours. These data indicate that the cortical amygdala plays a critical role in generating innate odour-driven behaviours but do not preclude its participation in learned olfactory behaviours.

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Acknowledgements

We thank L. Abbott, T. Jessell and D. Costantini for comments and reading the manuscript; B. Bader for assistance with experiments; M. Mendelsohn and N. Zabello for help with mice; P. Kisloff for assistance in preparation of the manuscript; and A. Nemes and M. Gutierrez for laboratory support. This work was supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Mathers Foundation.

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Affiliations

  1. Department of Neuroscience and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York 10032, USA

    • Cory M. Root
    •  & Richard Axel
  2. Department of Biological Sciences, New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, New York 10032, USA

    • Christine A. Denny
  3. Department of Neuroscience and Psychiatry, New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, New York 10032, USA

    • Christine A. Denny
    •  & René Hen
  4. Division of Integrative Neuroscience, New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, New York 10032, USA

    • Christine A. Denny
    •  & René Hen
  5. Department of Pharmacology, Columbia University, New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, New York 10032, USA

    • René Hen

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Contributions

C.M.R. and R.A. conceived the project, participated in its development, wrote the manuscript and analysed data. C.M.R. performed all experiments. C.A.D. and R.H. conceived and generated the ArcCreERT2 transgenic mouse.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Richard Axel.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nature13897

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