A Cross-Modality Enhancement of Defensive Flight via Parvalbumin Neurons in Zona Incerta

Elife. 2019 Apr 15;8:e42728. doi: 10.7554/eLife.42728.


The ability to adjust defensive behavior is critical for animal survival in dynamic environments. However, neural circuits underlying the modulation of innate defensive behavior remain not well-understood. In particular, environmental threats are commonly associated with cues of multiple sensory modalities. It remains to be investigated how these modalities interact to shape defensive behavior. In this study, we report that auditory-induced defensive flight behavior can be facilitated by somatosensory input in mice. This cross-modality modulation of defensive behavior is mediated by the projection from the primary somatosensory cortex (SSp) to the ventral sector of zona incerta (ZIv). Parvalbumin (PV)-positive neurons in ZIv, receiving direct input from SSp, mediate the enhancement of the flight behavior via their projections to the medial posterior complex of thalamus (POm). Thus, defensive flight can be enhanced in a somatosensory context-dependent manner via recruiting PV neurons in ZIv, which may be important for increasing survival of prey animals.

Keywords: auditory; defensive behavior; escape; mouse; neuroscience; parvalbumin; somatosensory; zona incerta.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Escape Reaction*
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory
  • Mice
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neurons / chemistry*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Parvalbumins / analysis*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology
  • Zona Incerta / physiology*


  • Parvalbumins