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Mohammad, F., Aryal, S., Ho, J., Stewart, J.C., Norman, N.A., Tan, T.L., Eisaka, A., Claridge-Chang, A. (2016). Ancient Anxiety Pathways Influence Drosophila Defense Behaviors.  Curr. Biol. 26(7): 981--986.
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Anxiety helps us anticipate and assess potential danger in ambiguous situations 1-3; however, the anxiety disorders are the most prevalent class of psychiatric illness 4-6. Emotional states are shared between humans and other animals 7, as observed by behavioral manifestations 8, physiological responses 9, and gene conservation 10. Anxiety research makes wide use of three rodent behavioral assays-elevated plus maze, open field, and light/dark box-that present a choice between sheltered and exposed regions 11. Exposure avoidance in anxiety-related defense behaviors was confirmed to be a correlate of rodent anxiety by treatment with known anxiety-altering agents 12-14 and is now used to characterize anxiety systems. Modeling anxiety with a small neurogenetic animal would further aid the elucidation of its neuronal and molecular bases. Drosophila neurogenetics research has elucidated the mechanisms of fundamental behaviors and implicated genes that are often orthologous across species. In an enclosed arena, flies stay close to the walls during spontaneous locomotion <up>15, 16</up>, a behavior proposed to be related to anxiety 17. We tested this hypothesis with manipulations of the GABA receptor, serotonin signaling, and stress. The effects of these interventions were strikingly concordant with rodent anxiety, verifying that these behaviors report on an anxiety-like state. Application of this method was able to identify several new fly anxiety genes. The presence of conserved neurogenetic pathways in the insect brain identifies Drosophila as an attractive genetic model for the study of anxiety and anxiety-related disorders, complementing existing rodent systems.

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Obtained with permission from Cell Press.
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PMC4826436 (PMC) (EuropePMC)
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    Curr. Biol.
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