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Postdoc paper is now out in Nature Neuroscience! 🥳 🧠

I am so thrilled to share that my postdoctoral research project performed in Dr. Dayu Lin's lab is now online and available open-access!

You can read the full article here!

You can also find media coverage of the work by Medical XPress who interviewed us regarding the paper here.

It has been a pleasure to work on this story and answer very exciting questions in the neuroscience and social behaviors field. This was a team effort in collaboration with Dr Luping Yin, 4 amazing NYU/Hunter College undergraduate students who performed their research projects in the lab under my mentorship: Chenxi Shi, Jared Burke, Govind Shekaran and Maria Grab, Dr. Joshua Corbin and Dr. Nandu Prakash at Children's National Medical Center and of course Dr Dayu Lin for all her support of this work and throughout my postdoc. So happy to have this amazing group of scientists to be part of the project and my scientific journey!

Here is the cover art work for the article by the very talented Dr. Katie Sokolowski. Unfortunately, it did not make it to the cover but hope you can enjoy!

Find the summary of the paper below⬇️ or check it out by clicking on my #tweetprint

Social behaviors including aggression and mating are crucial for animals to survive and propagate. These behaviors can be considered innate as they take place without prior experiences, although experience serves to improve performance.

Fantastic work from previous groups had identified the medial amygdala (MeA) as a key region for social behaviors. However, it remained unclear whether cell responses to social information in this region are developmentally established or determined by adult experience.

To tackle this debate, we investigated two developmentally distinct and transcriptionally defined MeA subpopulations: Foxp2 and Dbx1-derived cells (identified by Dr. Joshua Corbin's lab and my PhD dissertation). Both subpopulations are GABAergic but possessed distinct molecular identities, electrophysiological properties and were spatially parcellated both embryonically and postnatally. Can these MeA GABAergic subpopulations play distinct roles in social behaviors?

We performed bulk fiber photometry and observed that Foxp2+ cells were responding to male social sensory cues in naive male mice with no social experience AND in adults with social experience. Social experience served to improve the temporal precision and refine Foxp2+ responses!

This was really intriguing! Which led to the next question: can Foxp2+ cells show male-specific responses before and during PUBERTY? Yes! We adapted fiber photometry to juveniles and saw Foxp2+ cells responding to male cues across development.

How about the Dbx1-derived cells? Are they also responding to social information? We observed that Dbx1-derived cells responded more broadly to social sensory cues and very strongly during male ejaculation. Very different to what we see in the Foxp2+ cells.

The differences we see in the responses of these subpopulations is most likely due to 🥁 ... differences in their inputs, including from the accessory olfactory bulb (AOB), a primary relay of olfactory information to the MeA!

Can Foxp2+ and Dbx1-derived cells be functionally relevant for social behaviors? We chemogenetically activated these subpopulations in naive male mice or silenced these subpopulations in experienced aggressive mice and observed that Foxp2+ cells could bi-directionally modulate territorial aggression. This was not the case for Dbx1-derived cells.

We also noticed subtle differences in the outputs of these two subpopulations, especially to the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and the anterior vs posterior medial hypothalamic regions.

Overall, we identified a developmentally hard-wired circuit for the processing of male information in the MeA and initiation of territorial aggression. We also parsed out the contributions of development (nature) and experience (nurture) for the processing of social information!

Finally, I would like to thank my funding sources for providing support both for my research project and for my career development:

Leon Levy Neuroscience Fellowship & NIMH K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award

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