Scientists find that neurological changes can happen due to social status

Researchers at Georgia State University have discovered that in one species of freshwater crustaceans, social status can affect the configuration of neural circuitry.

They found that dominant and subordinate crayfish differ in their when touched unexpectedly, and that those differences correlate with differences in neural circuits that mediate those responses.

The article was published this week in the . The research team included Edwards, Fadi A. Issa and Joanne Drummond of Georgia State, and Daniel Cattaert of the Centre de Neurosciences Integratives et Cognitives of the Universities of Bordeaux 1 and 2.

When dominant crayfish are touched unexpectedly, they tend to raise their claws, while subordinate animals drop in place and scoot backwards, said Donald Edwards, Regents' Professor of neuroscience at Georgia State.

In looking at the nervous systems of the animals, the researchers noticed differences in how neurons were excited to produce different reactions to being touched when the animals' behavioral status changed. The changes do not represent a wholesale rewiring of the circuits, Edwards said.

"There is reconfiguration going on, but it is probably a shift in the excitation of the different neurons," he explained.

Neuroscientists at Georgia State are working on building computational models of the animals' nervous systems to learn more about how the neurons work in .

"If you can't build it, you don't know truly how it works," Edwards said.

More information: Journal of Neuroscience, 32(16):5638-5645. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5668-11.2012

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Study links enzyme to autistic behaviors

8 hours ago

Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is a genetic disorder that causes obsessive-compulsive and repetitive behaviors, and other behaviors on the autistic spectrum, as well as cognitive deficits. It is the most common ...

A new cause of mental disease?

13 hours ago

Astrocytes, the cells that make the background of the brain and support neurons, might be behind mental disorders such as depression and schizophrenia, according to new research by a Portuguese team from ...

Molecular basis of age-related memory loss explained

Jul 22, 2014

From telephone numbers to foreign vocabulary, our brains hold a seemingly endless supply of information. However, as we are getting older, our ability to learn and remember new things declines. A team of ...

The neurochemistry of addiction

Jul 22, 2014

We've all heard the term "addictive personality," and many of us know individuals who are consistently more likely to take the extra drink or pill that puts them over the edge. But the specific balance of ...

User comments