A neural circuit for competing approach and defense underlying prey capture

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Predatory hunting involves measured risk taking by the predator to anticipate dangerous defensive behavior from prey. This involves a mechanism where the motivation to hunt can overcome defensive behaviors toward prey to unlock attack. Here, we found that activation of a subset of GABAergic neurons in the lateral hypothalamus (LHA) promotes hunting but not feeding behavior. Stimulation of projections of these neurons to the periaqueductal gray (PAG), an area known to trigger defensive behaviors, decreased avoidance of prey. Single neuron recording during exposure to prey revealed two distinct PAG neuronal populations encoding risk assessment and flight. We conclude that in male mice, LHA GABAergic neurons are involved in blocking defensive behavior encoded in the PAG to overcome fear of prey.

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