The focus of my project is Panic Disorder (PD) which belongs to the anxiety disorders and its main feature is the hypersensitivity to increased carbon dioxide (CO2) in inhaled air. The current study is structured to focus on hyperventilation (i.e. accelerated breathing), which occurs during PD episodes (panic attacks) and Separation Anxiety (SA). SA occurs after interference in the relationship between mother and her offspring (stressful event in early life) and heightens the probability for an individual to develop PD as an adult. This phenomenon is observed in all mammals; hence it can be simultaneously investigated in human and mice. Interestingly the Repeated Cross Fostering (RCF) animal model used in my study, in which offsprings change mothers every day for their 4 first days of life, replicates both hypersensitivity to CO2 and PD in adult mice. Results from the behavioural experiments revealed significant differences between the RCF and control animals in minute ventilation (VE) thus further confirming RCF as a valuable model for PD. Our goal is to reveal the neurobiological mechanisms underlying these alterations in respiration.
Immunohistochemistry, confocal microscopy, behavioral measurements (respiration analysis), preclinical studies, qPCR, in situ hybridization, single neuron morphology