Tinbergen proposed that instinctive behaviors can be divided into appetitive and consummatory phases. During mating and aggression, the appetitive phase contains various actions to bring an animal to a social target and the consummatory phase allows stereotyped actions to take place. Here, we summarize recent advances in elucidating the neural circuits underlying the appetitive and consummatory phases of sexual and aggressive behaviors with a focus on male mice. We outline the role of the main olfactory inputs in the initiation of social approach; the engagement of the accessory olfactory system during social investigation, and the role of the hypothalamus and its downstream pathways in orchestrating social behaviors through a suite of motor actions.
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