Putting it in Context: Linking Auditory Processing with Social Behavior Circuits in the Vertebrate Brain

Context is critical to the adaptive value of communication. Sensory systems such as the auditory system represent an important juncture at which information on physiological state or social valence can be added to communicative information. However, the neural pathways that convey context to the auditory system are not well understood. The serotonergic system offers an excellent model to address these types of questions. Serotonin fluctuates in the mouse inferior colliculus (IC), an auditory midbrain region important for species-specific vocalizations, during specific social and non-social contexts. Furthermore, serotonin is an indicator of the valence of event-based changes within individual social interactions. We propose a model in which the brain’s social behavior network serves as an afferent effector of the serotonergic dorsal raphe nucleus in order to gate contextual release of serotonin in the IC. Specifically, discrete vasopressinergic nuclei within the hypothalamus and extended amygdala that project to the dorsal raphe are functionally engaged during contexts in which serotonin fluctuates in the IC. Since serotonin strongly influences the responses of IC neurons to social vocalizations, this pathway could serve as a feedback loop whereby integrative social centers modulate their own sources of input. The end result of this feedback would be to produce a process that is geared, from sensory input to motor output, toward responding appropriately to a dynamic external world.

Publication Date:
Jul 27 2017
Date Submitted:
Mar 01 2019
Integrative and Comparative Biology, 57, 4
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 Record created 2019-03-01, last modified 2019-04-03

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