Encoding of danger by parabrachial CGRP neurons

Nature. 2018 Mar 29;555(7698):617-622. doi: 10.1038/nature25511. Epub 2018 Mar 21.


Animals must respond to various threats to survive. Neurons that express calcitonin gene-related peptide in the parabrachial nucleus (CGRPPBN neurons) relay sensory signals that contribute to satiation and pain-induced fear behaviour, but it is unclear how they encode these distinct processes. Here, by recording calcium transients in vivo from individual neurons in mice, we show that most CGRPPBN neurons are activated by noxious cutaneous (shock, heat, itch) and visceral stimuli (lipopolysaccharide). The same neurons are inhibited during feeding, but become activated during satiation, consistent with evidence that CGRPPBN neurons prevent overeating. CGRPPBN neurons are also activated during consumption of novel foods or by an auditory cue that has previously been paired with electrical footshocks. Correspondingly, silencing of CGRPPBN neurons attenuates the expression of food neophobia and conditioned fear responses. Therefore, in addition to transducing primary sensory danger signals, CGRPPBN neurons promote affective-behavioural states that limit harm in response to potential threats.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning / physiology*
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide / metabolism*
  • Calcium Signaling
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology
  • Diet, High-Fat
  • Electroshock
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Fear / psychology
  • Heat-Shock Response
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / physiology
  • Mice
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Pain / psychology
  • Parabrachial Nucleus / cytology*
  • Parabrachial Nucleus / physiology
  • Pruritus
  • Satiety Response / physiology


  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide