Antagonistic Control of Social Versus Repetitive Self-Grooming Behaviors by Separable Amygdala Neuronal Subsets

Cell. 2014 Sep 11;158(6):1348-1361. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.07.049.

Abstract

Animals display a range of innate social behaviors that play essential roles in survival and reproduction. While the medial amygdala (MeA) has been implicated in prototypic social behaviors such as aggression, the circuit-level mechanisms controlling such behaviors are not well understood. Using cell-type-specific functional manipulations, we find that distinct neuronal populations in the MeA control different social and asocial behaviors. A GABAergic subpopulation promotes aggression and two other social behaviors, while neighboring glutamatergic neurons promote repetitive self-grooming, an asocial behavior. Moreover, this glutamatergic subpopulation inhibits social interactions independently of its effect to promote self-grooming, while the GABAergic subpopulation inhibits self-grooming, even in a nonsocial context. These data suggest that social versus repetitive asocial behaviors are controlled in an antagonistic manner by inhibitory versus excitatory amygdala subpopulations, respectively. These findings provide a framework for understanding circuit-level mechanisms underlying opponency between innate behaviors, with implications for their perturbation in psychiatric disorders.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aggression
  • Amygdala / cytology
  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Grooming*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Social Behavior*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism

Substances

  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid