The Activity of Single Cells in the Midbrain and Hypothalamus of the Cat during Affective Defense Behavior

by David B. Adams
Department of Psychology; Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.A.

Reprinted from Archives Italiennes de Biologie 106: 243-249, 1968

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Added figures
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Tables 1 - 2 - 3a - 3b - 4 - 5


1. Activity of cells in the hypothalamus, midbrain and thalamus of the cat was recorded extracellularly during affective defense behavior (hissing and/or striking) evoked by a second attacking cat, and com- pared to activity during control manipulations, including lifting and dropping of the cat, retraction of the leg after it had been pulled, pinching of the tail and presentation of auditory and visual stimuli.

2. Four cells were found which had the characteristics expected for cells mediating affective defense behavior. They fired consistently during affective defense, but scarcely or not at all during any control manipulation of the cat. These cells were located in the dorsal midbrain central gray or slightly lateral to it, in the center of a region where affective defense was consistently produced by electrical stimulation.

3. Three other cells from the same region fired during affective defense at rates more than 50% greater than rates attained during any other manipulation of the cat.

4. The results of recording and stimulation were reversible at the sites of these seven cells: affective defense produced a specific electrical activity while electrical stimulation produced affective defense.

5. All other cells recorded from the midbrain were facilitated by a variety of manipulations of the cat. Some were specific to visual motion, auditory stimuli, or head movement, but most were responsive to more than one sensory modality.

6. In the hypothalamus about one-third of the cells decreased in firing rate or stopped firing altogether in, response to a variety of manipulations of the cat. Other hypothalamic cells were unaffected by any manipulation or else were facilitated. No cells in areas of the hypothalamus where affective defense behavior was elicited by electrical stimulation seemed to be particularly related to that behavior.

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