Diminishing fear: Optogenetic approach toward understanding neural circuits of fear control

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Abstract

Understanding complex behavioral processes, both learned and innate, requires detailed characterization of the principles governing signal flow in corresponding neural circuits. Previous studies were hampered by the lack of appropriate tools needed to address the complexities of behavior-driving micro- and macrocircuits. The development and implementation of optogenetic methodologies revolutionized the field of behavioral neuroscience, allowing precise spatiotemporal control of specific, genetically defined neuronal populations and their functional connectivity both in vivo and ex vivo, thus providing unprecedented insights into the cellular and network-level mechanisms contributing to behavior. Here, we review recent pioneering advances in behavioral studies with optogenetic tools, focusing on mechanisms of fear-related behavioral processes with an emphasis on approaches which could be used to suppress fear when it is pathologically expressed. We also discuss limitations of these methodologies as well as review new technological developments which could be used in future mechanistic studies of fear behavior.

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