What's in a name? Considerations of homologies and nomenclature for vertebrate social behavior networks

Horm Behav. 2013 Jun;64(1):103-12. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2013.05.006. Epub 2013 May 27.


Behavioral neuroendocrinology is an integrative discipline that spans a wide range of taxa and neural systems, and thus the appropriate designation of homology (sameness) across taxa is critical for clear communication and extrapolation of findings from one taxon to another. In the present review we address issues of homology that relate to neural circuits of social behavior and associated systems that mediate reward and aversion. We first address a variety of issues related to the so-called "social behavior network" (SBN), including homologies that are only partial (e.g., whereas the preoptic area of fish and amphibians contains the major vasopressin-oxytocin cell groups, these populations lie in the hypothalamus of other vertebrates). We also discuss recent evidence that clarifies anterior hypothalamus and periaqueductal gray homologies in birds. Finally, we discuss an expanded network model, the "social decision-making network" (SDM) which includes the mesolimbic dopamine system and other structures that provide an interface between the mesolimbic system and the SBN. This expanded model is strongly supported in mammals, based on a wide variety of evidence. However, it is not yet clear how readily the SDM can be applied as a pan-vertebrate model, given insufficient data on numerous proposed homologies and a lack of social behavior data for SDM components (beyond the SBN nodes) for amphibians, reptiles or fish. Functions of SDM components are also poorly known for birds. Nonetheless, we contend that the SDM model provides a very sound and important framework for the testing of many hypotheses in nonmammalian vertebrates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Birds / physiology
  • Decision Making
  • Dopamine / physiology
  • Fishes / physiology
  • Hypothalamus, Anterior / physiology
  • Limbic System / physiology
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Periaqueductal Gray / physiology
  • Social Behavior*
  • Terminology as Topic
  • Vertebrates / physiology


  • Dopamine