← Return to the Publications page

Inscopix Publications

Transformations of neural representations in a social behavioral network


Authors: Bin Yang, Tomomi Karigo & David J. Anderson
Publication: Nature
Date: August 3, 2022
Link to article: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-05057-6


Mating and aggression are innate social behaviours that are controlled by subcortical circuits in the extended amygdala and hypothalamus. The bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNSTpr) is a node that receives input encoding sex-specific olfactory cues from the medial amygdala, and which in turn projects to hypothalamic nuclei that control mating (medial preoptic area (MPOA)) and aggression (ventromedial hypothalamus, ventrolateral subdivision (VMHvl)), respectively. Previous studies have demonstrated that male aromatase-positive BNSTpr neurons are required for mounting and attack, and may identify conspecific sex according to their overall level of activity. However, neural representations in BNSTpr, their function and their transformations in the hypothalamus have not been characterized. Here we performed calcium imaging of male BNSTprEsr1 neurons during social behaviours. We identify distinct populations of female- versus male-tuned neurons in BNSTpr, with the former outnumbering the latter by around two to one, similar to the medial amygdala and MPOA but opposite to VMHvl, in which male-tuned neurons predominate. Chemogenetic silencing of BNSTprEsr1 neurons while imaging MPOAEsr1 or VMHvlEsr1 neurons in behaving animals showed, unexpectedly, that the male-dominant sex-tuning bias in VMHvl was inverted to female-dominant whereas a switch from sniff- to mount-selective neurons during mating was attenuated in MPOA. Our data also indicate that BNSTprEsr1 neurons are not essential for conspecific sex identification. Rather, they control the transition from appetitive to consummatory phases of male social behaviours by shaping sex- and behaviour-specific neural representations in the hypothalamus.

Scroll to Top