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Transformations and Functions of Neural Representations in a Subcortical Social Behavior Network


Yang, Bin (2022) Transformations and Functions of Neural Representations in a Subcortical Social Behavior Network. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/v13r-yt57.


The brain functions by processing sensory information such as vision, smell, and touch, integrating it with internal states (hunger, fear, aggression) and memory to produce relevant motor outputs (eating, fleeing, or fighting). To understand the brain, neuroscientists study neural representations (patterns of neural activity that correlate with features of the outside world) to and perform perturbations (activate or silence groups of neurons) to determine its function. Past studies on neural representations gave us insights into how sensory regions filter complex inputs to retain relevant information and how coordinated activity in the motor regions produce complex motor actions. However, little is known about how information is processed in the inner brain (between sensory and motor) and how behaviors are controlled. Mating and aggression are innate social behaviors that are essential for animals’ survival. During social interactions, such as those preceding mating or fighting, the brain must determine the sex of a conspecific to produce sex-appropriate behaviors that are conducive to its survival. Functional studies demonstrated that they are controlled by deep subcortical circuits in the extended amygdala and hypothalamus. My thesis attempts to understand how the inner brain works by 1) showing that chemosensory cues encoding conspecific’s sex are transformed to neural representations of mating and aggression during social interactions by recording from a genetically defined group of neurons in different regions of the extended amygdala and hypothalamus. 2) Demonstrating that the neural activity representing conspecific’s sex is necessary for the emergence of behavioral representations in the hypothalamus.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Neurobiology; Social Behavior; Neural Circuits;
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Biology and Biological Engineering
Major Option:Neurobiology
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Anderson, David J.
Thesis Committee:
  • Meister, Markus (chair)
  • Gradinaru, Viviana
  • Oka, Yuki
  • Anderson, David J.
Defense Date:17 May 2022
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05232022-073842501
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription adapted for Appendix I.
Yang, Bin0000-0002-3878-1530
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:14597
Deposited By: Bin Yang
Deposited On:06 Jun 2022 22:27
Last Modified:08 Nov 2023 00:22

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