What is it about?

The study of social dominance interactions between animals offers a window onto the decision-making involved in establishing dominance hierarchies and an opportunity to examine changes in social behavior observed in certain neurogenetic disorders. Growing interest in social neuroscience requires the development and refinement of social behavior paradigms and novel analyses of the manner in which the neural activity in one brain may reflect the behavioral activity of self or of other, or the activity of each of two interacting individuals. This study documents an approach to analyze such interactions in a social dominance encounter between rodents.

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Why is it important?

The neural activity associated with social dominance interactions is altered in some pathologies such as autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). The possible resolution of those deficits requires a better understanding of the basis of the behavior encoding. The calcium imaging technique provides an excellent opportunity to acquire a major knowledge about the role of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) in this encoding. Using this technique we have seen that the PFC is able to recognize not only the animal own behavior, but also the opposite's one. These correlates point to a more cognitive rather than a solely behavioral dimension of social interactions that needs to be considered in the design of neurobiological studies of social behavior.


I hope that this work could increase the knowledge about the behavior encoding performed by the brain, especially in situations where this encoding can be affected by external elements such as social situations. Autism spectrum disorders like Fragile X Syndrome is characterized by a social withdrawal and it will probably be reflected in the neuronal activity. A better understanding about those alterations could be incredibly helpful in the developing of new therapeutic approaches.

Nuria Garcia
University of Edinburgh

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Ca2+ imaging of self and other in medial prefrontal cortex during social dominance interactions in a tube test, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, July 2022, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2107942119.
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