Most of what we know about the social brain has been derived from the study of adult animals. However, social behaviors and brains are extremely dynamic and exhibit plasticity over the entire lifespan. There is still much to learn about how changes in neurobiology and cellular function enable animals to adaptively shift their social behaviors across life stages. To this end, the Hiura lab uses molecular genetic techniques and rigorous behavioral analysis to investigate how developing neural circuits and structures are shaped by interactions between biology and environmental experiences.
Social experiences play a crucial role in scaffolding brain development, but the ways in which changing neural circuits are shaped by early social interactions to facilitate adult bonding remains unknown. We use the socially monogamous prairie vole as a model system to probe features of the developing monogamous brain. This work has important translational potential for understanding how the atypical development of social circuits may contribute to maladaptive disease states.
Photographs by Aubrey Kelly