The nerves we feel before a stressful event, like speaking in public, are normally kept in check by a complex system of circuits in our brain. Scientists at Rockefeller University have identified a key molecule within this circuitry that is responsible for relieving anxiety. Intriguingly, it doesn’t appear to reduce anxiety in female mice, only in males.
“This is unusual, because the particular cell type involved here is the same in the male and female brain, same in number, same in appearance,” said researcher Nathaniel Heintz. “It’s a rare case where a single cell type is activated by the same stimulus but yields two different behaviors in each gender.”
Heintz and colleagues demonstrated that a protein called corticotropin releasing hormone binding protein (CRHBP) reduces anxiety in male mice by halting the activity of a stress-inducing hormone.
The results may provide insights into new therapies for anxiety-related conditions.
The study has been published in Cell.