In high-risk contexts, a racing heart can make a formerly relaxed mouse nervous:
When you're stressed and anxious, you might feel your heart race. Is your heart racing because you're afraid? Or does your speeding heart itself contribute to your anxiety? Both could be true, a new study in mice suggests.
By artificially increasing the heart rates of mice, scientists were able to increase anxiety-like behaviors — ones that the team then calmed by turning off a particular part of the brain. The study, published in the March 9 Nature, shows that in high-risk contexts, a racing heart could go to your head and increase anxiety. The findings could offer a new angle for studying and, potentially, treating anxiety disorders.
The idea that body sensations might contribute to emotions in the brain goes back at least to one of the founders of psychology, William James, says Karl Deisseroth, a neuroscientist at Stanford University. In James' 1890 book The Principles of Psychology, he put forward the idea that emotion follows what the body experiences. "We feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble," James wrote.
The brain certainly can sense internal body signals, a phenomenon called interoception. But whether those sensations — like a racing heart — can contribute to emotion is difficult to prove, says Anna Beyeler, a neuroscientist at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Bordeaux. She studies brain circuitry related to emotion and wrote a commentary on the new study but was not involved in the research. "I'm sure a lot of people have thought of doing these experiments, but no one really had the tools," she says.
[...] In the new study, Deisseroth and his colleagues used a light attached to a tiny vest over a mouse's genetically engineered heart to change the animal's heart rate. When the light was off, a mouse's heart pumped at about 600 beats per minute. But when the team turned on a light that flashed at 900 beats per minutes, the mouse's heartbeat followed suit. "It's a nice reasonable acceleration, [one a mouse] would encounter in a time of stress or fear," Deisseroth explains.
When the mice felt their hearts racing, they showed anxiety-like behavior. In risky scenarios — like open areas where a little mouse might be someone's lunch — the rodents slunk along the walls and lurked in darker corners. When pressing a lever for water that could sometimes be coupled with a mild shock, mice with normal heart rates still pressed without hesitation. But mice with racing hearts decided they'd rather go thirsty.
[...] Understanding the link between heart and head could eventually factor into how doctors treat panic and anxiety, Beyeler says. But the path between the lab and the clinic, she notes, is much more convoluted than that of the heart to the head.
Hsueh, B., Chen, R., Jo, Y. et al. Cardiogenic control of affective behavioural state. Nature 615, 292–299 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-023-05748-8
(Score: 3, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, @02:48AM (3 children)
(Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, @12:34PM
Everything in there is anecdotal. It would be interesting to find whether their's or other's follow on work supported this.
(Score: 3, Insightful) by Freeman on Friday March 17, @03:01PM
That reads more like a plot in a sci-fi novel.
Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"
(Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Friday March 17, @09:53PM
I mean, it wouldn't really surprise me to hear that vegetarians/vegans get cravings for a burger every so often. Your body wants meat.
"Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
(Score: 4, Interesting) by Azuma Hazuki on Saturday March 18, @01:04AM
Recently, an old alpha-blocker drug (Prazosin, trade name Minipress) has been showing up in my PTSD patients' profiles. Given what this is and one hypothesis of PTSD, that it's partly your brain getting stuck in sympathetic overload, it makes sense: there's a kind of dependency hell going on, where the mind and body can't get out of one anothers' way and calm down. So it makes sense that forcibly damping down catecholamine signalling might help.
I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
(Score: 2) by ChrisMaple on Saturday March 18, @05:48AM
Is "interoception" measured with an interocitor, on this island Earth?
(Score: 1) by jman on Saturday March 18, @08:06AM
Nice to know evolution contains crufty code as well.
Or, at least, to know it doesn't fully unit test before rolling out new behavior.