Science is a step closer to identifying the mechanisms that underlie the stress that prey experience when it detects the scent of a predator.
The research team found a specific area in the brain, the so-called olfactory cortex, which controls hormone secretion.
When a mouse smells a predator, this trigger various hormones that have to do with stress and fear and prepares the mouse for immediate danger.
It is already established how the neurons behave at the early stages in the olfactory center. But how these affect other areas of the brain which then controls hormone secretion have been unknown.
The researchers are now one step closer to identifying this connection, as they found a specific area in the so-called olfactory cortex, which controls hormone secretion.
The method used is quite elaborate. They injected the mice with a harmless virus, which in turn is encoded, to a group of neurons turn on and off when a specific drug is injected.
They found that even if the neurons was turned off, the mice still froze when experiencing the smell of a predator. This is a clear sign that many parts of the brain are involved and that there is much left to do in the area.
Reference: Kunio Kondoh et al. A specific area of the olfactory cortex Involved in stress hormone responses to predator odours. DOI: 10.1038 / nature17156