Social control of the brain

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2012:35:133-51. doi: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-062111-150520. Epub 2012 Apr 12.


In the course of evolution, social behavior has been a strikingly potent selective force in shaping brains to control action. Physiological, cellular, and molecular processes reflect this evolutionary force, particularly in the regulation of reproductive behavior and its neural circuitry. Typically, experimental analysis is directed at how the brain controls behavior, but the brain is also changed by behavior over evolution, during development, and through its ongoing function. Understanding how the brain is influenced by behavior offers unusual experimental challenges. General principles governing the social regulation of the brain are most evident in the control of reproductive behavior. This is most likely because reproduction is arguably the most important event in an animal's life and has been a powerful and essential selective force over evolution. Here I describe the mechanisms through which behavior changes the brain in the service of reproduction using a teleost fish model system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cichlids
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / biosynthesis
  • Gonadotropins / biosynthesis
  • Models, Biological
  • Receptors, LHRH / biosynthesis
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Control, Informal*
  • Spermatogenesis / genetics


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Gonadotropins
  • Receptors, LHRH