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Corticosterone Signaling and a Lateral Habenula–Ventral Teg
Retrograde PRV-EGFP and anterograde HSV-tdTomato were used to trace the EP–masseter muscle pathway.
The viruses used in this article are in the table below
Pseudorabies virus  PRV-152-EGFP
Herpes simplex virus  HSV-tdTomato
Yujie Guo, Xun Tang, Jichuan Zhang, Sen Jin, Jinnan Li, Lufeng Ding, Keming Zhang, Chaoyu Yang, Hua Zhou, Xiaobin He, Fuqiang Xu, Guo-Qiang Bi, Lin Xu and Pak-Ming Lau
Pub Date: 2018-06-06, DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2540-17.2018,  Email:
Self-injurious behavior (SIB) is commonly observed in patients with neuropsychiatric disorders, as well as in nonclinical populations with stress-related mental-health problems. However, the exact circuitry mechanisms underlying SIB have remained poorly understood. Here, with bilateral injection of muscimol into the entopeduncular nucleus (EP), we established a rat model of SIB. Following the muscimol injection, the male rats exhibited in a dose-dependent manner stereotypic self-biting behavior that lasted for hours and often resulted in wounds of various severities. The SIB was associated with an elevated level of serum corticosterone and could be exacerbated by enhancing the corticosterone signaling and, conversely, alleviated by inhibiting the corticosterone signaling. Activity mapping using c-fos immunostaining, combined with connectivity mapping using herpes simplex virus-based anterograde tracing from the EP and pseudorabies virus-based retrograde tracing from the masseter muscle, revealed the potential involvement of many brain areas in SIB. In particular, the lateral habenula (LHb) and the ventral tegmental area (VTA), the two connected brain areas involved in stress response and reward processing, showed a significant increase in neuronal activation during SIB. Furthermore, suppressing the LHb activity or modulating the GABAergic transmission in the VTA could significantly reduce the occurrence of SIB. These results demonstrate the importance of stress hormone signaling and the LHb–VTA circuit in modulating SIB resulting from EP malfunction, and suggest potential targets for therapeutic intervention of SIB and related disorders.
Figure 1. Modulation of SIB by regulating the activity of the LHb-VTA circuit.
To reveal the exact circuitry mechanisms underlying self-injurious behavior (SIB), using a rat model of SIB induced by disruption of activity in the entopeduncular nucleus (EP), the authors found that the behavior is regulated by stress and linked to corticosterone signaling. Viral tracing and c-fos immunostaining revealed the involvement of various subcortical areas, especially the EP–lateral habenula (LHb)–ventral tegmental area (VTA) circuit, in SIB. Furthermore, regulating activity in the LHb or the VTA alleviates SIB. These results may have implications in the development of new strategies for treating SIB.
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