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Encoding of social exploration by neural ensembles in the insular cortex


Authors: Miura I et al.
Publication: PLOS Biology
Date: September 21, 2020
Link to article: https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.3000584&_…


The insular cortex (IC) participates in diverse complex brain functions, including social function, yet their cellular bases remain to be fully understood. Using microendoscopic calcium imaging of the agranular insular cortex (AI) in mice interacting with freely moving and restrained social targets, we identified 2 subsets of AI neurons—a larger fraction of “Social-ON” cells and a smaller fraction of “Social-OFF” cells—that change their activity in opposite directions during social exploration. Social-ON cells included those that represented social investigation independent of location and consisted of multiple subsets, each of which was preferentially active during exploration under a particular behavioral state or with a particular target of physical contact. These results uncover a previously unknown function of AI neurons that may act to monitor the ongoing status of social exploration while an animal interacts with unfamiliar conspecifics.

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