Corticostriatal control of defense behavior in mice induced by auditory looming cues

Nat Commun. 2021 Feb 15;12(1):1040. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-21248-7.


Animals exhibit innate defense behaviors in response to approaching threats cued by the dynamics of sensory inputs of various modalities. The underlying neural circuits have been mostly studied in the visual system, but remain unclear for other modalities. Here, by utilizing sounds with increasing (vs. decreasing) loudness to mimic looming (vs. receding) objects, we find that looming sounds elicit stereotypical sequential defensive reactions: freezing followed by flight. Both behaviors require the activity of auditory cortex, in particular the sustained type of responses, but are differentially mediated by corticostriatal projections primarily innervating D2 neurons in the tail of the striatum and corticocollicular projections to the superior colliculus, respectively. The behavioral transition from freezing to flight can be attributed to the differential temporal dynamics of the striatal and collicular neurons in their responses to looming sound stimuli. Our results reveal an essential role of the striatum in the innate defense control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology
  • Corpus Striatum / anatomy & histology
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology*
  • Cues
  • Escape Reaction / physiology*
  • Female
  • Freezing Reaction, Cataleptic / physiology*
  • Instinct*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Sound
  • Superior Colliculi / anatomy & histology
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology