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Cell Rep. 2015 Jan 13;10(2):292-305. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2014.12.014. Epub 2014 Dec 31.

Mapping social behavior-induced brain activation at cellular resolution in the mouse.

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Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, NY 11724, USA.
Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, MA 02139, USA.
Allen Institute for Brain Science, Seattle, WA 98103, USA.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, NY 11724, USA; Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02118, USA.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, NY 11724, USA. Electronic address:


Understanding how brain activation mediates behaviors is a central goal of systems neuroscience. Here, we apply an automated method for mapping brain activation in the mouse in order to probe how sex-specific social behaviors are represented in the male brain. Our method uses the immediate-early-gene c-fos, a marker of neuronal activation, visualized by serial two-photon tomography: the c-fos-GFP+ neurons are computationally detected, their distribution is registered to a reference brain and a brain atlas, and their numbers are analyzed by statistical tests. Our results reveal distinct and shared female and male interaction-evoked patterns of male brain activation representing sex discrimination and social recognition. We also identify brain regions whose degree of activity correlates to specific features of social behaviors and estimate the total numbers and the densities of activated neurons per brain areas. Our study opens the door to automated screening of behavior-evoked brain activation in the mouse.

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