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Innate Behavior Circuitry


In order to understand how sensory information, especially pheromone information, is encoded in the nervous system, we have developed a number of genetic techniques to alter neural activity including knock in, knock out, and ectopic transgenics. To evaluate the effects of these genetic manipulations on the animalís perception, we also developed behavioral paradigms to assay changes in innate behaviors. These include mating and aggression, urine marking, and ultrasound emission assays. These assays revealed striking changes in innate behaviors when the detection of pheromones is altered. For example, knock out of TPRC2 channels leads to a dramatic increase in male-male mounting by the mutant males.

The natural question is how †animals discriminate sex and exhibit robust and appropriate innate behaviors, and how the alteration of sensory input changes these behaviors. We believe the answers lie in the neural circuits that process the social information.† Because individual VNO neuron expresses only one specific type of vomeronasal receptor and neurons expressing different receptors have distinct but stereotyped projection patterns, pheromone information is initially encoded in the differential activation of VNO sensory neurons and is transformed into a topographic representation in the AOB to elicit innate behaviors. By identifying the receptors expressed by specific neurons, we can genetically trace the projection of their axons to elucidate the circuit logic of pheromone information processing in the brain.


TRPC2 Female Mounting Castrated Male painted with Male Urine.



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