Behavior is shaped by a variety of genetic and epigenetic mechanisms, including those underlying anxiety and fear. Neuropeptides are ideal candidates to be involved in the regulation of emotional facets as they are released within the brain and act as neuromodulators/neurotransmitters; furthermore, their large number is prone to direct changes by mutations.
Neuropsychopharmacology: Official Publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology
Disturbances of volume-regulating mechanisms have already been implicated in the pathophysiology of eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia nervosa with the peptide hormones vasopressin and atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) being of special interest. Aim of the present study was to investigate, whether the expression of the corresponding genes was altered and if so, if these changes could be explained by epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation. We analyzed blood samples of 46 women suffering from anorexia (n=22) or bulimia nervosa (n=24) as well as of 30 healthy controls.
Disturbances of volume regulating peptides like vasopressin and atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) have been described in early abstinent patients. Aim of the present study was to evaluate possible alterations of the promoter-related DNA methylation of the ANP and vasopressin precursor genes and the related mRNA-expression of these genes in early alcohol withdrawal. We analyzed blood samples of 57 healthy controls and of 111 patients suffering from alcohol dependence that were admitted for detoxification treatment.
Early life stress (child and adolescent abuse, neglect and trauma) induces robust alterations in emotional and social functioning resulting in enhanced risk for the development of psychopathologies such as mood and aggressive disorders. Here, an overview is given on recent findings in primate and rodent models of early life stress, demonstrating that chronic deprivation of early maternal care as well as chronic deprivation of early physical interactions with peers are profound risk factors for the development of inappropriate aggressive behaviors.
Early-life stress induces persistent memory traces on our genes and programs the life-long risk for depression. Epigenetic marking of the arginine vasopressin (AVP) gene by early-life stress in mice underpins sustained expression and increased hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity, triggering endocrine and behavioral alterations that are frequent features in depression. This epigenetic memory evolves in two steps coordinated by the epigenetic reader and writer MeCP2.
In the present review, we discuss how the evolution of oxytocin and vasopressin from a single ancestor peptide after gene duplication has stimulated the development of the vertebrate social brain. Separate production sites became possible with a hypothalamic development, which, interestingly, is triggered by the same transcription factors that underlie the development of various subcortical regions where vasopressin and oxytocin receptors are adjacently expressed and which are connected by inhibitory circuits.
This paper describes what is currently known about attachment from the development, social-cognitive and biological literatures and outlines the impact on organisms given adverse development experiences that can have an effect upon attachment formation in childhood across these three literatures. We then describe the effects that 'insecure' attachment styles arising in childhood can affect brain chemistry and brain function and subsequently adult social/romantic relationships.
The brain systems that motivate humans to form emotional bonds with others probably first evolved to mobilize the high-quality maternal care necessary for reproductive success in placental mammals. In these species, the helplessness of infants at birth and their dependence upon nutrition secreted from their mothers' bodies (milk) and parental body heat to stay warm required the evolution of a new motivational system in the brain to stimulate avid and sustained mothering behavior.
BioEssays: News and Reviews in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
Neuropeptides vasopressin and oxytocin regulate a variety of behaviors ranging from maternal and pair bonding to aggression and fear. Their role in modulating fear responses has been widely recognized, but not yet well understood. Animal and human studies indicate the major role of the amygdala in controlling fear and anxiety. The amygdala is involved in detecting threat stimuli and linking them to defensive behaviors. This is accomplished by projections connecting the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) to the brain stem and to hypothalamic structures, which organize fear responses.
Love is one of the most desired experiences. The quest for understanding human bonds, especially love, was traditionally a domain of the humanities. Recent developments in biological sciences yield new insights into the mechanisms underlying the formation and maintenance of human relationships. Animal models of reproductive behaviors, mother-infant attachment and pair bonding complemented by human studies reveal neuroendocrine foundations of prosocial behaviors and emotions.