Social Interaction and Group Behavior
Physical and emotional interactions between individuals, and within a group, can induce positive emotional states, and lead to physiological adaptations and behavioral changes necessary for relaxation, resilience, attachment, growth, achievements, and healing. Social support and positive social experiences have well documented health benefits, such as reduction of the risk for a wide range of diseases, including cardiovascular dysfunction, high blood pressure, anxiety and mood disorders. However, the molecular and cellular substrates that mediate the effects of social stimuli and which underlie the benefits of positive social experiences are poorly understood, as are the behavior and gene interaction implications of positive social experiences. Therefore, understanding the neurobiology of social interactions by focusing on the brain circuits and genes, which are associated with, or altered by, the social stimuli, will provide important insights into the brain mechanisms by which social interaction affects psychological and physiological processes.
A major challenge in sociobiology, behavioral science, and neuroscience, is the identification and quantification of social interactions under normal and pathological conditions. To that end, several research groups in our department are currently engaged in research aimed to quantify and manipulate gene activation patterns, physiological traits, and behavioral outcomes of group interaction of mice in a semi-natural environment over extended time scales.