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Fear Roundup

October 3, 2008

Does fear make better parents?


How fear helps moms. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Being fearless sounds like a good trait, especially for parents. But in mice at least, fear may be a requirement for being a good mom. Scientists at Rutgers raised mice that were missing a gene that produces strathmin, a protein that activates cells in the brain’s fear center. If you take a newborn pup away from a normal mouse mother, and place it at the far side of the cage, she’ll race off to retrieve the pup. But mother mice lacking the fear gene ignore the missing pup. The research is helping to illuminate how fear helps us survive.

In other news, researchers have found a protein that could be responsible for post-partum depression. Low levels of the protein made mother mice disinterested in caring for their pups. The finding offers a new line of research in treating the depression in people. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.