Fear and Anxiety
Racing heartbeat, acute senses, worrying thoughts etc. are part of defence responses we develop when faced with a potential threat. Depending on the characteristics of the threats and such responses, we categorise them as fear or anxiety. These responses prepare our body and mind for actions such as a fight with or flight from a predator. Although fear and anxiety are essential biological functions for organism’s survival, excessive or malfunctioning responses lead to anxiety disorders that have devastating impact on one’s life. Therefore, the regulation of the negative emotional responses is crucial for healthy mental living. I am interested in finding out how our brain achieves this regulatory function and what goes wrong in the brain of dysregulated fear/anxiety. In particular, I focus on the roles of prefrontal cortex (PFC). A wealth of literature indicates that subcortical structures such as amygdala and hippocampus are important for processing of threat-related information and the expression of emotional responses. Recent findings suggest the PFC’s involvement in the regulation of these subcortical activities. My research project aims to elucidate specific PFC-subcortical circuits as well as distinct roles of PFC sub-regions in emotion regulation. As the PFC is important for cognitive functions, I also explore the aspect of cognition-emotion interaction in the regulation of emotional responses. Findings from such studies eventually help improve the diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders.
Marmoset is a New World monkey that has been a recent focus as an emergent model animal in neuroscience research. Their well-developed PFC and rich social behaviour as well as their small size make this species an ideal model for the research of emotion regulation. However, in contrast to rodents, the details of their brain anatomy, physiology, behavioural repertoire and genetics are still not well understood. I am interested in characterising the marmoset, especially their cognitive and emotional capabilities, as an experimental model. My current projects include a neuroanatomical characterisation of developing marmoset brain using a MRI.
Shiba Y, Santangelo AM, Roberts AC, (2016), Beyond the medial regions of prefrontal cortex in the regulation of fear and anxiety, Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience (in press)
Shiba Y, Kim C, Santangelo AM, Roberts AC, (2015), Lesions of either anterior orbitofrontal cortex or ventrolateral prefrontal cortex in marmoset monkeys heighten innate fear and attenuate active coping behaviors to predator threat, Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience, 8(January), 1–15. doi:10.3389/fnsys.2014.00250
Shiba Y, Santangelo AM, Braesicke K, Agustin-Pavon C, Cockcroft G, Haggard M, Roberts AC, (2014), Individual differences in behavioral and cardiovascular reactivity to emotive stimuli and their relationship to cognitive flexibility in a primate model of trait anxiety, Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, Vol. 8 Article 173 doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00137
Agustin-Pavon C, Braesicke K, Shiba Y, Santangelo AM, Mikheenko Y, Cockroft G, Asma F, Clarke H, Man M, Roberts AC, (2012), Lesions of Ventrolateral Prefrontal or Anterior Orbitofrontal Cortex in Primates Heighten Negative Emotion, Biological Psychiatry, Vol. 72 pp.266-272 doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2012.03.007