The bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), a brain area involved in fear and anxiety, also projects into brain areas with contrasting roles, including some involved in the reward response. Two papers now dissect out the functional properties of various subregions of projections of BNST in mice. Garret Stuber and colleagues examine BNST projections to the ventral tegmental area and find that glutamatergic and GABAergic projections have opposing effects on reward and aversion. Karl Deisseroth and colleagues find that different subregions of BNST increase and decrease anxiety, and that distinct projections modulate different features of anxiety. This work suggests that anxiety arises not from a single neural circuit, but from the interplay between anxiety-producing and anxiety-reducing circuits.
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