Ominous odors: olfactory control of instinctive fear and aggression in mice

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2013 Jun;23(3):339-45. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2013.01.007. Epub 2013 Feb 14.


Aggression and fear are often thought to be distinct behavioral states, yet they share several common output responses. In the mouse, both can be initiated by specialized odor cues. How these cues signal through the olfactory system to promote behavior is largely unknown. Recent experiments have started to uncover the relevant signaling ligands, chemosensory receptors, and responsive sensory neurons that together enable the precise manipulation of behaviorally relevant neural circuits. Moreover, the use of molecular genetics and new experimental strategies has begun to reveal how the central nervous system processes olfactory information to initiate aggression and fear. A sensory-initiated comparative study of these two fundamental threat reactions promises to offer new mechanistic insight.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Brain / physiology
  • Cues
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Odorants*
  • Olfactory Mucosa / physiology
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology
  • Olfactory Perception / physiology*
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Vomeronasal Organ / physiology