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Elife. 2017 Jun 16;6. pii: e25421. doi: 10.7554/eLife.25421.

Neural mechanisms of social learning in the female mouse.

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Department of Biology, Boston University, Boston, United States.
Program in Neuroscience and Behavior, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, United States.


Social interactions are often powerful drivers of learning. In female mice, mating creates a long-lasting sensory memory for the pheromones of the stud male that alters neuroendocrine responses to his chemosignals for many weeks. The cellular and synaptic correlates of pheromonal learning, however, remain unclear. We examined local circuit changes in the accessory olfactory bulb (AOB) using targeted ex vivo recordings of mating-activated neurons tagged with a fluorescent reporter. Imprinting led to striking plasticity in the intrinsic membrane excitability of projection neurons (mitral cells, MCs) that dramatically curtailed their responsiveness, suggesting a novel cellular substrate for pheromonal learning. Plasticity was selectively expressed in the MC ensembles activated by the stud male, consistent with formation of memories for specific individuals. Finally, MC excitability gained atypical activity-dependence whose slow dynamics strongly attenuated firing on timescales of several minutes. This unusual form of AOB plasticity may act to filter sustained or repetitive sensory signals.


electrophysiology; learning; mouse; neuroscience; olfactory; pheromone; social

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