The Pfizer Research Prize is one of the most prestigious research awards in the field of medicine in Switzerland. This year, the Pfizer Research Prize Foundation has honored 25 researchers with awards. Maria Soledad Esposito and Philip Tovote have received their award in the category “Neurological sciences and diseases of the nervous system” for their research work published in Nature.
In the face of existential danger, the survival of the affected person depends on the appropriate behavioral response to the particular threat – be it freezing or flight. Maria Soledad Esposito and Philip Tovote have investigated which neuronal circuits underlie passive and active behaviors in specific threatening situations.
Applying optogenetic, electrophysiological and neuroanatomical methods in an animal model, they were able to describe the neuronal network in the fore-, mid- and hindbrain, that triggers an evolutionarily very old “freezing response” to threat. These findings provide a functional understanding of a fundamental survival reaction which is deployed by a wide variety of species, and whose dysregulation plays a role in anxiety disorders in humans.
Philip Tovote, Maria Soledad Esposito, Paolo Botta, Fabrice Chaudun, Jonathan P. Fadok, Milica Markovic, Steffen B. E. Wolff, Charu Ramakrishnan, Lief Fenno, Karl Deisseroth, Cyril Herry, Silvia Arber, Andreas Lüthi: Midbrain circuits for defensive behaviour. Nature (2016)
Contact: Communications, Heike Sacher