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Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2005 Dec;15(6):704-9. Epub 2005 Nov 2.

How social experiences influence the brain.

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  • 1Sub-Department of Animal Behaviour, University of Cambridge, High Street Madingley, Cambridge, CB3 8AA, UK. fac25@hermes.cam.ac.uk


Social experiences throughout life influence gene expression and behavior, however, early in development these influences have a particularly profound effect. In mammals, mother-infant interactions are the primary source of social stimulation and result in long-term changes in offspring phenotype. This has previously been demonstrated in rodents and primates, however, recent studies in rats have advanced our understanding of how these influences are achieved at a mechanistic level, through epigenetic modification, and provide a model for studying the transmission of social behavior across generations. These studies emphasize the importance of a life-history approach to the study of brain development; incorporating information about genetic background, prenatal and postnatal maternal care received, and post-weaning social interactions of an individual, in addition to the social environment experienced by previous generations.

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