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Neural circuitry for complex social behaviour 450 million years old, researchers say

neurons/Roberto Robuffo, Fotolia

From “Vertebrates Share Ancient Neural Circuitry for Complex Social Behaviors, Biologists Find” (ScienceDaily, May 31, 2012), we , we learn,

Humans, fish and frogs share neural circuits responsible for a diversity of social behavior, from flashy mating displays to aggression and monogamy, that have existed for more than 450 million years, biologists at The University of Texas at Austin found.

They specifically looked at gene activity in two neural networks, one responsible for evaluating the relative importance of stimuli (the mesolimbic reward system), and one responsible for social behavior (the social behavior network). The former is important in drug addiction and romantic love, which manifests in the brain surprisingly like drug addiction.

“In these key brain regions, we found remarkable conservation of gene activity across species,” said Hofmann.

As so often with these releases, an elephant in the room is ignored: The vast antiquity of the circuits.

The researchers are now looking for “molecular universals” (as common genes and molecules shared across species that form the bases of behavior). But if – even in human beings – getting married to the honey in the next cube registers the same as mainlining smack, let’s hope they aren’t too disappointed by the complexity they find.

See also:Melanin in squid ink unchanged since Jurassic times


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