Neurotransmitters regulating defensive rage behavior in the cat

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Conference Proceeding

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This review summarizes recent findings of our laboratory that have been directed at: (1) identifying the neural circuits underlying the expression and modulation of defensive rage behavior in the cat and the neurotransmitters associated with these pathways; and (2) determining which components of the circuitry are affected by alcohol administration and which significantly alter the rage mechanism. The experiments described herein incorporated a number of converging methods, which include brain stimulation, behavioral pharmacology, immunocytochemistry, retrograde tract tracing and receptor binding. For behavioral pharmacological studies, monopolar electrodes and cannula-electrodes were implanted into selected regions along the limbic-midbrain axis for electrical stimulation and local microinfusion of drugs. The findings demonstrated: (1) a direct pathway from the anterior medial hypothalamus to the dorsal periaqueductal gray (PAG) over which this response is mediated. This pathway utilizes excitatory amine acids that act upon NMDA receptors within the midbrain PAG; (2) that the region of the dorsal PAG, from which defensive rage could be elicited, receives other inputs from the basal amygdala that facilitate this response by acting upon NMDA receptors; (3) a pathway from the medial amygdala to the medial hypothalamus that also facilitates defensive rage and whose functions are mediated by substance P receptors within the medial hypothalamus; (4) that the PAG also receives enkephalinergic inputs from the central nucleus of amygdala, which act upon μ receptors, and which powerfully suppress defensive rage; and (5) that recent findings reveal that ethanol administration facilitates defensive rage by virtue of its interactions with the medial hypothalamus, its descending projection to the PAG, and possibly with NMDA receptors within this pathway.

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Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews

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