Dept. of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Dept. of Neurobiology
Member: Bio-X, CHeM-H, Stanford Neurosciences Institute
Host: Oliver Hobert
Title: Location, location, location: contextual control of innate social behaviors
Abstract: What mechanisms control instinctual displays of sexually dimorphic behaviors such as mating or territoriality and allow them to adapt to social context and experience? What mechanisms control social attachments? My lab uses mice, flies, and prairie voles to address these questions. Despite their fundamental importance to social interactions in health and neuro-psychiatric disorders, the molecular and neural mechanisms underlying sex-differences in behaviors remain mysterious. To tackle this long-standing problem, we leverage the fact that sex hormones regulate sexual differentiation of the brain during development and adulthood to control sex-typical behaviors. Thus, identifying sex hormone-responsive neurons and genes should allow us to access the underlying mechanisms. We have used this strategy and developed sensitive genetic reagents to make significant discoveries about how sex hormones regulate neural circuits controlling sex-typical behaviors. We have built upon these findings to identify and link sex hormone-responsive genes and neural pathways to specific sexually dimorphic behaviors. These studies underscore the profound role of gene networks and developmental patterning in controlling the instinctual displays of these social interactions. I will present our findings related to these research directions and also discuss ongoing work on how these can behaviors are profoundly modulated by state-dependent mechanisms.