A sneak peek into the social brain: miniScope imaging reveals neural coding of social behavior

2018

Challenge

The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) is the cognitive center of the brain and is also important for social behavior. However, the mechanisms by which mPFC neurons process information related to social exploration remains largely unknown.

Advance

IRP researchers, led by Da-Ting Lin, Ph.D., developed and applied a technology called miniScope to record calcium activity from hundreds of nerve cells in the mPFC while mice freely engaged in social exploration. The team tracked the activity of the same nerve cells for up to several weeks and found that opposing ‘Yin and Yang’ nerve cells in the brain dynamically process information related to social exploration. The psychedelic drug phencyclidine (PCP) caused deficits in social exploration that were also associated with reorganization and dysfunction in the ‘Yin and Yang’ nerve cells involved in social exploration.

Impact

The findings reveal the importance of dynamic ‘Yin and Yang’ nerve cells in the cognitive center of the brain during social exploration. Moreover, the researchers’ approach could be applied to mouse models of psychiatric disorders, paving the way for future studies to reveal the neurological basis of social behavior deficits in various psychiatric disorders in humans.

Publications

Liang B, Zhang L, Barbera G, Fang W, Zhang J, Chen X, Chen R, Li, Y, Lin DT. (2018). Distinct and Dynamic ON and OFF Neural Ensembles in the Prefrontal Cortex Code Social Exploration. Neuron. 100(3):519-520.