Scientists have figured out how the brain recognizes its own

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists from the Max Planck Institute were able to identify a neural network on a zebrafish model that allows fish to recognize their relatives and respond to them.

This is the very basis of any social behavior. The human brain has a similar neural network, now you can try to build a model of the formation of society, starting from the most basic level.

Neuroscientists have discovered how the brain recognizes its own

Humans are known to be social animals. But not only them. There are herds of mammals, flocks of birds or schools of fish. How does an animal’s brain recognize other animals of its kind?

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Intelligence are studying this process in young zebrafish. Neuroscientists have discovered a neural circuit that is responsible for recognizing animals of their own species. This specialized pathway goes from the retina deep into the brain to the thalamus.

Usually the identification of their own occurs in a split second, almost instinctively. However, identifying the neural circuits underlying these behaviors has proven to be far from easy.

Yours among yours

Scientists have developed a virtual reality experimental setup for zebrafish that mimics their congeners. It turned out that all that was needed was a dot projected onto the screen, which – and this is important – moves around the display in characteristic jerks, which is typical for swimming zebrafish.

Animals immediately react to such a signal and follow it for hours, mistaking the moving point for a real fish. Thus, the researchers found a visual stimulus that triggers the gregarious behavior.

After that, the team explored the neural processing of the stimulus. Experiments have shown that a moving dot activates a set of neurons in a specific area of ​​the brain – the thalamus. The same area is activated when a real zebrafish swims nearby.

“The thalamus is the brain’s sensory control center that integrates and transmits sensory data,” explains project leader Johannes Larsch.

Sensory information is already processed on its way to the thalamus, first in the retina and then in the main visual center of the vertebrate brain.

Scientists have figured out how the brain recognizes its own 3
Specialized area of ​​the brain allows zebrafish to locate closest relatives

Relationship between the visual system and areas of social behavior

Nerve cells found by researchers in the thalamus connect the zebrafish’s visual system to other areas of the brain that are active during social behavior.

“We already knew that these other areas of the brain play a role in controlling social behavior. However, the visual stimuli that activate them were unknown. Our work has identified neural pathways that transmit signals,” says Larsh.

The importance of these neurons was confirmed when the researchers specifically blocked their work. Zebrafish immediately lost interest in their relatives, as well as in moving points, and no longer followed them.

Johannes Kappel, PhD student and lead author of the study, says: “Humans also have a thalamus, and many neural processes have been preserved through evolution.

We also have areas of the brain that are active when we perceive movements of the face or body, but the significance of these areas for social behavior has not yet been studied.”

Elucidation of the connections between neural processes and social behavior is very important, because it allows building models at a basic level for studying social behavior and social adaptation, including for people.

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