Although significant advances have been made in elucidating the structures that regulate fear and food-
seeking responses in isolation, the neural circuits and mechanisms that integrate both behavioral responses
remain poorly understood. Previous studies have shown that the paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus
(PVT) is interconnected with areas of the brain implicated in the control of fear and food-seeking responses.
We have recently shown that neurons in the anterior part of PVT (aPVT) respond differently to aversive and
rewarding stimuli, suggesting that this region may be part of a core neural network that integrates fear and
food-seeking responses. Using an experimental approach in which rats need to overcome their fear of
predator cues in order to search for food, in Aim 1 we will identify potential inputs that convey predator threat
and food reward information to aPVT neurons by using a combination of neural tracers, immunohistochemistry,
and electrophysiological recordings in vitro. In Aim 2, we will use optogenetics and single-unit recordings to
manipulate and record from aPVT-projecting neurons during the predator threat vs. food-seeking conflict test.
We will then correlate neural activity with distinct behavioral responses. In Aim 3, we will record from specific
subsets of aPVT neurons while chemogenetically manipulating input regions that transmit threat- and food-
related information to aPVT neurons. The experiments proposed in these three aims will provide insights into
elucidating the competing demands of avoiding threats and approaching rewards, which may have clinical
relevance for understanding adaptive and motivated behaviors.