Tuesday, January 31 2017
11:00am - 12:00pm
Georgia Tech, EBB 1005
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Neural Circuits Governing Parental Behavior

Anita Autry, Harvard University

Parental care is essential for the survival and well-being of young, though parents or other adults sometimes show neglect or aggressive behavior toward infants.  While maternal behavior has been studied extensively, agonistic behavior toward infants remains poorly understood.  I will review work in which I participated that combined molecular, optogenetic, and behavioral techniques to understand how galanin neurons in the medial preoptic area control positive aspects of mouse parental behavior.  Then I will describe my independent research project which expands on these approaches to uncover how a population of neurons in the perifornical area of hypothalamus (PeFA) expressing neuropeptide urocortin-3 (ucn3) governs agonistic infant-directed behavior.  Prior studies have associated ucn3 PeFA neuronal activity with anxiety and stress-related behavior, though this circuit has not previously been to parental behavior.  My findings suggest that ucn3 PeFA neurons govern the negative regulation of parental behavior in a physiologically relevant manner.  My research goal is to define the anatomy and function of this novel behavioral circuit and to connect the anatomy with infant-directed behavior in various physiological states.