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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2012 Aug;36(7):1763-72. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2011.10.006. Epub 2011 Nov 3.

Social memories in rodents: methods, mechanisms and modulation by stress.

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  • 1Laboratory of Behavioral Genetics, Brain Mind Institute, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), Station 19, CH-1015, Lausanne, Switzerland.


Intact social memory forms the basis of meaningful interactions between individuals. Many factors can modulate the quality of social memory, and these have been studied in detail in rodents. Social memory, however, cannot be considered a single entity. The term social memory reflects different processes, such as social recognition of a novel conspecific individual and social learning (or 'learning from others'). This review summarizes the findings obtained with behavioral paradigms that were developed for the study of memory formation by social recognition and social learning. In particular, we focus on studies that include tests for social habituation/discrimination paradigms, tests for memory of a previously established social hierarchy and the social transmission of the food preference test. The role of individual differences and the main neurobiological mechanisms (i.e., the brain regions and neurochemical systems involved) that have been implicated in each of these types of social-related memories are reviewed. In addition, we address the key modulatory influence of stress on the formation of these types of memories; discussing the contribution of central (corticotropin-releasing factor, CRF) and peripheral (glucocorticoids) stress systems and their interactions with the social neuropeptide systems. Overall, we present here a general overview of the current state of a thriving research area within the field of social neuroscience.

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