Ruth K. Broad Seminar: David J. Anderson: Dynamic neural coding of social behavior in the hypothalamus
Abstract: The hypothalamus controls both physiological homeostasis and innate survival behaviors such as mating, aggression and predator defense. The prevailing view is that the circuitry controlling the latter behaviors is primarily organized as a series of "labeled lines," in which specific cell types control specific behaviors through dedicated circuitry. I will present evidence that population coding and neural dynamics play a previously unsuspected and important role in controlling social behaviors in the hypothalamus. More specifically, we have found that line attractor-like dynamics in the hypothalamus may represent a neural mechanism for encoding scalable, persistent motive states that underly such behaviors. These findings suggest that attractor dynamics may play a much broader role in controlling behavior, beyond the primarily cognitive functions mediated by the cortico-hippocampal areas in which they have been described previously.