Psychology Colloquium: Professor Russell Fernald, Stanford University
Date: March 26, 2012
(Hosted by Robert Seyfarth)
Title: How does social behavior change the brain?
Individuals in a social system typically behave so the society functions smoothly. Conspicuous animal signals convey essential information about survival and reproduction that are integrated with internal information including social and reproductive status to influence behavior of other animals. But how do individuals acquire the information they need to modulate their behavior and reproductive state? And how do animals use that information to decide what to do? Using a particularly suitable fish model system with remarkably complex social interactions, we show how the social context tightly regulates reproduction and shapes the reproductive control by the brain. Animals observe social interactions carefully to gather information vicariously that then guides their behavior. Social opportunities produce rapid changes in gene expression in key nuclei in the brain, a genomic response that readies the individual to occupy a new social niche, including changes in neuronal cell size and connections in key reproductive nuclei. Understanding mechanisms through which social information is transduced into cellular and molecular changes allows a deeper understanding of how brain systems responds to social information.
3:30PM in Stiteler Hall room B21. Refreshments will be served at 3:00PM in Stiteler Hall's Silverstein Forum.