Researchers uncover brainwaves linked to social behavior


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Summary: Study shows brain wave activity in medial prefrontal cortex and amygdala associated with social behavior in mice

Source: Tohoku University

Researchers from Tohoku University and Tokyo University have discovered electrical wave patterns in the brain that are linked to the social behavior of mice. They also observed that mice showing signs of stress, depression or autism lacked these brainwaves.

The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and amygdala regions of the brain regulate our emotions and undergo pathological changes when we experience psychiatric illness. However, the exact neural processes behind it remain unclear.

Takuya Sasaki of Tohoku University’s Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences led a team that recorded electrical brain signals — called electrical brain waves — in the mPFC and amygdala areas of mice.

This shows two mice and brain waves
Animals interact socially with each other and generate specific electrical vibrations in the brain. Photo credit: Takuya Sasaki et al.

They found that certain brain waves were subject to pronounced fluctuations when the mice interacted socially. In particular, brainwaves in the theta (4–7 Hz) and gamma (30–60 Hz) frequency bands decreased and increased, respectively, during socialization.

When the same tests were run on mice showing poor social skills or symptoms of depression and autism, the brain waves weren’t there. In particular, artificial replication of brainwaves associated with social behavior through an optical and genetic manipulation technique in these pathological mouse models restored their ability to socially interact.

“This finding provides a unified understanding of the brain activity underlying social behavior and its deficits in disease,” says Sasaki.

Looking ahead, Sasaki aims to identify the fundamental mechanisms of neural dynamics in these brainwaves and to assess the involvement of the other brain regions in social behavior. In parallel, he is investigating whether the same brain mechanisms work in humans for clinical applications.

About this news from social behavior research

Author: press office
Source: Tohoku University
Contact: Press Office – Tohoku University
Picture: The image is provided by Takuya Sasaki et al.

Original research: Open access.
“Prefrontal amygdalar oscillations associated with social behavior in mice” by Nahoko Kuga et al. eLife


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Prefrontal-amygdalar oscillations associated with social behavior in mice

The medial prefrontal cortex and amygdala are involved in the regulation of social behavior and associated with psychiatric disorders, but their detailed neurophysiological mechanisms at the network level remain unclear.

We recorded local field potentials (LFPs) from the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC) and basolateral amygdala (BLA) while male mice engaged in social behavior. We found that both dmPFC and BLA increased oscillatory power by 4-7 Hz and decreased power by 30-60 Hz in wild-type mice when they had to attend to a different target mouse.

In mouse models with reduced social interactions, dmPFC 4–7 Hz output continued to increase, particularly when they exhibited social avoidance behaviors. In contrast, when wild-type mice socially approached a target mouse, dmPFC and BLA decreased power by 4–7 Hz. Frequency-specific optogenetic manipulations that replicate LFP patterns associated with social approaches restored social interaction behaviors in socially weak mice.

These results demonstrate a neurophysiological substrate of the prefrontal cortex and amygdala related to social behavior and provide a unified pathophysiological understanding of the neuronal population dynamics underlying social behavioral deficits.

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