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.
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