Molecular and Circuit Architecture of Social Hierarchy


November 20, 2019 - 12:00pm
Northwest Building 243
About the Speaker
Adam Nelson
Speaker Title: 
Postdoctoral Fellow
Speaker Affiliation: 
Dulac Lab

Social hierarchy is a common organizational structure of animal groups, in which an individual social status generates an adaptive behavioral state that facilitates interactions with other group members. Although generally stable, the social status of an animal can change, underscoring the plasticity of the underlying neural circuits. Here, we uncover the molecular and biophysical properties of a cortico-thalamic circuit that supports the emergence of hierarchy in mice. We established a robust behavioral paradigm to explore the establishment of hierarchy among groups of unfamiliar males, and identified the mediodorsal thalamus (MDT) and the caudal part of anterior cingulate area (cACC) as brain areas that are differentially activated between dominants and subordinates. Glutamatergic MDT neurons project to inhibitory parvalbumin interneurons of the cACC, and activity levels of both cell types control competitive performance. Synaptic inputs and excitability of MDT neurons undergo dramatic changes according to the animal social status, and single nucleus sequencing identified increased transcription of the voltage gated ion channel Trpm3 in dominant mice, leading to enhanced excitatory transmission in the MDT-cACC circuit. Our data suggest a model in which cellular, molecular and biophysical plasticity in a thalamocortical circuit controls the expression of social status.