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June 5th Webinar Post 2

NeuroNexus Education Series: Neural Encoding of Social and Fear Behaviors in the Hypothalamic Mesoscale

Join Dr. Stefanos Stagkourakis from the David Anderson lab as he shares his research, accompanied by Dr. Asiyeh Golabchi providing an overview of the innovative products used in his studies.

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In the last decade, optogenetic studies have revealed that activating specific hypothalamic neuron groups can trigger distinct instincts in rodents. Yet, it's unclear if these behavioral units are neatly confined anatomically or show consistent activation across behaviors. Using advanced electrode technology, we recorded neural activity across twenty hypothalamic subregions in mice engaged in social and fear behaviors. Our findings show that individual neuron activity can decode behaviors, suggesting rich behavioral information in seemingly anonymous neural units. While clusters of activity encode different behaviors, they also display mixed selectivity, representing seemingly opposing actions within each behavior class. Moreover, these clusters exhibit flexibility in encoding behavior, showing variability across trials (representation drift). While social or fear-encoding neuron clusters have anatomical biases, representations of both behaviors are distributed throughout the hypothalamus. On average, behavior explains 23% of single neuron activity variance, indicating the substantial role of hypothalamic activity in encoding internal states. Further research is needed to fully grasp how these mesoscale neuron representations influence behavior.