When presented with a choice, organisms need to assimilate internal information with external stimuli and past experiences to rapidly and flexibly optimize decisions on a moment-to-moment basis. We hypothesized that increasing hunger intensity would curb expression of social behaviors such as mating or territorial aggression; we further hypothesized social interactions, reciprocally, would influence food consumption. We assessed competition between these motivations from both perspectives of mice within a resident-intruder paradigm. We found that as hunger state escalated, resident animal social interactions with either a female or male intruder decreased. Furthermore, intense hunger states, especially those evoked via AgRP photoactivation, fundamentally altered sequences of behavioral choice; effects dependent on food availibility. Additionally, female, but not male, intrusion attenuated resident mouse feeding. Lastly, we noted environmental context-dependent gating of food intake in intruding mice, suggesting a dynamic influence of context cues on the expression of feeding behaviors.
Keywords: behavior; competition; mouse; neuroscience; optogenetics.