Social interactions and the brain

Written by
Princeton University, National Science Foundation
Jan. 27, 2016

Many animals, from insects to humans, are social. Their brains have evolved to be sensitive to sensory cues that carry social information, such as: speech sounds, pheromones and visual cues. But very little is known about how animal brains process and integrate this information.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), neuroscientist Mala Murthy and a multidisciplinary team at Princeton University want to understand what happens in the brain when animals process information, communicate and socialize. The team is using courtship and mating behavior of fruit flies as an experimental system to reveal how sensory input is processed and integrated with information about a fly's internal state to produce social behavior.

Murthy says what the researchers are learning will contribute to a better understanding of interaction and communication in many animals, including humans.

The research in this episode was supported by NSF award #1451197, Closing the Loop on Social Behaviors, From Mathematical Models to Neural Circuit Dynamics.

Miles O'Brien, Science Nation Correspondent
Kate Tobin, Science Nation Producer