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Neurological Changes Can Happen Due to Social Status

Update Date: Apr 20, 2012 01:33 AM EDT

In one species of freshwater crustaceans, social status can affect the configuration of neural circuitry, a new study found.

Researchers found that dominant and subordinate crayfish differ in their behavioral responses when touched unexpectedly, and that those differences correlate with differences in neural circuits that mediate those responses

"When dominant crayfish are touched unexpectedly, they tend to raise their claws, while subordinate animals drop in place and scoot backwards", said Donald Edwards, Regents' Professor of neuroscience at Georgia State.

The results of the study indicate that the circuits and their intrinsic serotonergic modulatory components are configured differently according to social status.

"In looking at the nervous systems of the animals, the researchers noticed differences in how neurons were excited to produce different reactions to being touched when the animals' behavioral status changed. The changes do not represent a wholesale rewiring of the circuits," Edwards said.

The article was published this week in the Journal of Neuroscience. The research team included Edwards, Fadi A. Issa and Joanne Drummond of Georgia State, and Daniel Cattaert of the Centre de Neurosciences Integratives et Cognitives of the Universities of Bordeaux 1 and 2. 

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