Blocking pathological rage - in mice

10 July 2012

Interview with

Nell Barrie

Kat::  Something that may - well, set something on fire is a story that I saw in the journal of Neuroscience.  This is from Marco Bortolato at the University of Southern California and this is looking at the genetics of rage.  This is an absolutely fascinating story.  What are the researchers been up to here?

Nell::  Yeah, I really like this one because I can definitely identify with extreme rage at some points in my life.

Kat::  You look so calm and peaceful all the time.

Nell::  No, I definitely have that feeling occasionally where you just kind of snap and you get really mad.  And perhaps, this is telling us a little bit about what might be happening in the brain especially in people, perhaps you have a real problem with controlling that rage and just can't manage to control it at all.  By looking at a specific receptor which they think might be malfunctioning and over functioning perhaps in people who are very hostile, and they've looked in mice.  So, this is really early stage stuff, but they found this receptor is faulty in mice that are very, very hostile and they think that this could have something to do with the same process in humans perhaps.  So, maybe there could be a way we could fix the function of that receptor, return it to normal, and could that help us treat people who have rage problems maybe?  

Kat:: You know, we're not talking about people who like you, just get a bit of a strop on...

Nell:: No, just getting a little angry is more like kind of serious problem with rage, isn't it?  The other thing that struck me reading this is it's one of those studies where you're looking at a tiny part of what the brain does.  And it's really interesting and it's telling you something but it really needs to be part of the whole thing, and when you're looking at things like behaviour, it's usually not simple as switching one thing on and off, and switching that behaviour on and off because there's so many different aspects to it, and they talk about risk factors as well.  

So the way you're brought up, the kind of environment you live in when you were a child has a big effect on the type of rage response you might have to things.  So, that really got to be taken into account as well, so it's really early days.  But it's interesting to see how these things are similar in mice and humans I think.

Kat:: I'd like to see a mouse with rage - eek!!

Nell:: you can see videos of angry rats on the internet that I've seen.  They've done some selective breeding and you get really, really angry rats who just attack people just on sight.

Kat::  More than angry birds who just attack pigs. 

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