Modular genetic and neural control of sexually dimorphic behaviors
Nirao Shah, MD. Ph.D. Professor, University of California San Francisco
Host: Aaron Gitler
We aim to understand the mechanisms via which genes and neural circuits control social behaviors. We are tackling these mechanisms as they relate to sexually dimorphic displays of sexual and aggressive behaviors in mice and other model organisms. These behaviors are quantifiable, can be elicited by natural stimuli without prior training, and are regulated by sex hormones. These features have allowed us to make significant inroads into the mechanisms underlying these behaviors using tools from genetics, molecular biology, endocrinology, behavioral analysis, and electrophysiology. We will discuss our recent findings that show that innate social behaviors are controlled in a modular manner such that different components of a behavior are regulated by specific hormonal signaling events, separable genetic pathways, and distinct neuronal populations. We will also discuss the broader implications of our findings on the general mechanisms whereby neural circuits encode complex social behaviors.