Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Vertebrates share ancient neural circuitry for complex social behaviors, biologists find

Date:
May 31, 2012
Source:
University of Texas at Austin
Summary:
Humans, fish and frogs share neural circuits responsible for a diversity of social behavior, from flashy mating displays to aggression and monogamy, that have existed for more than 450 million years, biologists have found.

Neurons.
Credit: Roberto Robuffo / Fotolia

Humans, fish and frogs share neural circuits responsible for a diversity of social behavior, from flashy mating displays to aggression and monogamy, that have existed for more than 450 million years, biologists at The University of Texas at Austin found.

Related Articles


"There is an ancient circuitry that appears to be involved in social behavior across all vertebrates," said Hans Hofmann, associate professor of integrative biology. "On a basic level, this tells us something about where we came from. A lot of the neural circuits that our brain uses for social behavior are actually quite old."

Hofmann and graduate student Lauren O'Connell published their research in this week's Science.

The biologists analyzed 12 regions of the brain responsible for social behavior and decision-making in 88 species of vertebrates including birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish.

They specifically looked at gene activity in two neural networks, one responsible for evaluating the relative importance of stimuli (the mesolimbic reward system), and one responsible for social behavior (the social behavior network). The former is important in drug addiction and romantic love, which manifests in the brain surprisingly like drug addiction.

"In these key brain regions, we found remarkable conservation of gene activity across species," said Hofmann.

Despite the discovery of such consistency in gene activity, it's easy to see that vertebrates have evolved a large diversity of behaviors during the past 450 million years.

That diversity can be partly explained, said Hofmann, as small variations on a theme. The basic neural circuits evolved long ago, providing a genetic and molecular framework for the evolution of new behavior. Small tweaks over time in those neural circuits then give rise to new behavior.

Monogamy, for example, has evolved multiple times independently in various vertebrate species. Monogamous behavior can be more advantageous for reproduction and survival under certain environmental conditions, and the research suggests that the evolution of this behavior is probably the result of small tweaks in a conserved neural network rather than evolving an entirely new one.

"Vertebrate brains are incredibly diverse, but we are finding the commonalities, even at the level of gene activity," said Hofmann. "Now we have a framework with which we can ask whether there are molecular universals associated with social behaviors."

Hofmann described "molecular universals" as common genes and molecules shared across species that form the bases of behavior, and he is on the hunt for them. This research highlights the areas of the vertebrate brain where he can now look for molecular universals in these shared neural circuits.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Texas at Austin. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. L. A. O'Connell, H. A. Hofmann. Evolution of a Vertebrate Social Decision-Making Network. Science, 2012; 336 (6085): 1154 DOI: 10.1126/science.1218889

Cite This Page:

University of Texas at Austin. "Vertebrates share ancient neural circuitry for complex social behaviors, biologists find." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120531145726.htm>.
University of Texas at Austin. (2012, May 31). Vertebrates share ancient neural circuitry for complex social behaviors, biologists find. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120531145726.htm
University of Texas at Austin. "Vertebrates share ancient neural circuitry for complex social behaviors, biologists find." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120531145726.htm (accessed December 18, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Kids Die While Under Protective Services

Kids Die While Under Protective Services

AP (Dec. 18, 2014) As part of a six-month investigation of child maltreatment deaths, the AP found that hundreds of deaths from horrific abuse and neglect could have been prevented. AP's Haven Daley reports. (Dec. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Can fat disappear into thin air? New research finds that during weight loss, over 80 percent of a person's fat molecules escape through the lungs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Hottest Food Trends for 2015

The Hottest Food Trends for 2015

Buzz60 (Dec. 17, 2014) Urbanspoon predicts whicg food trends will dominate the culinary scene in 2015. Mara Montalbano (@maramontalbano) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) NASA's Curiosity rover detected methane on Mars and organic compounds on the surface, but it doesn't quite prove there was life ... yet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins