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Behav Neurosci. 2011 Aug;125(4):501-11. doi: 10.1037/a0024426.

Social regulation of serotonin in the auditory midbrain.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia University.


The neuromodulator serotonin regulates auditory processing and can increase within minutes in response to stimuli like broadband noise as well as nonauditory stressors. Little is known about the serotonergic response in the auditory system to more natural stimuli such as social interactions. Using carbon-fiber voltammetry, we measured extracellular serotonin in the auditory midbrain of resident male mice during encounters with a male intruder. Serotonin increased in the inferior colliculus (IC) over the course of a 15 minute interaction, but not when mice were separated with a perforated barrier. Several behaviors, including the amount of immobility and anogenital investigation performed by the resident, were correlated with the serotonergic response. Multiple intrinsic factors associated with individual mice also correlated with the serotonergic response. One of these was age: older mice had smaller serotonergic responses to the social interaction. In a second interaction, individual identity predicted serotonergic responses that were highly consistent with those in the first interaction, even when mice were paired with different intruders. Serotonin was also significantly elevated in the second social interaction relative to the first, suggesting a role for social experience. These findings show that during social interaction, serotonin in the IC is influenced by extrinsic factors such as the directness of social interaction and intrinsic factors including age, individual identity, and experience.

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