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McLean researcher

Vadim Bolshakov: Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory

Fear can be protective but can also become pathological. Founded in 1999, the Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory has provided breakthrough insights into the fear mechanisms of the brain—discoveries that raise hope for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorder, and other persistent, debilitating conditions. We study how innate fear and learned fear manifest and interact at the level of individual brain cells and circuits in animal models. Our clinical collaborations help translate our scientific discoveries into clinical practice.

In recent studies, we have provided one of the first mechanistic explanations of how long-term fear memory is encoded and retained, which holds promise for new drug treatments for PTSD, either soon after the initial trauma or after a re-triggering of fear memory. Our researchers have also identified genes controlling production of proteins involved in innate and learned fear. This knowledge could potentially be used for new treatments for anxiety-related disorders in humans.