Researchers have found the neural pathway in rats that drives social grooming

Researchers have found the neural pathway in rats that drives social grooming

Current Biology (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2022.08.062″ width=”800″ height=”530″/>

Graphic abstract. Credit: Current Biology (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2022.08.062

A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in Hungary, working with two colleagues from Spain and one each from the US and Germany, has discovered the neural pathway in the rat brain that is responsible for social grooming. In their paper published in the journal Current Biologygroup describes the use of injections and whole-cell patch recording techniques to capture brain activity in test rats engaged in social grooming.


Many animals participate in social grooming, which is loosely defined as non-sexual physical contact made as part of associations between members of a group—hugging or petting among humans, for example, or simply touching or grooming other animals. Brain scientists have suspected that there are certain parts of the brain that play a role in such activities.

To find the brain regions responsible for social grooming in rats, the researchers used cell patch recording to capture brain activity during instances of social grooming. The technology provides a way to measure cell membrane currents in living animals. It is done using patch clamps. The animals used in the test were allowed to roam freely in an open field both before and during the experiments. In this scenario, the rats naturally engaged in social grooming with each other.

Analyzing recordings made from pairs of female rats engaged in social care, the researchers found that two main areas of the brain became active, the medial preoptic area (MPOA) and the posterior intralaminar thalamic nucleus (PIL), located in the thalamus and hypothalamus. The researchers found they could also force both areas to become active using chemical enhancements, resulting in increased social care.

The researchers found that neurons in both regions expressed a hormone called parathyroid neuropeptide, which was released into the surrounding thalamus, or hypothalamus. They also found that dampening neurons in the region led to reduced social care. The group completed their work by searching for and finding possible analogues of MPOA and PIL in humans.


The survey examines injuries related to pubic hair care


More information:
Dávid Keller et al, A thalamo-preoptic pathway promotes social grooming in rodents, Current Biology (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2022.08.062

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Citation: Researchers find neural pathway in rats that drives social grooming (2022, September 16) Retrieved September 19, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-09-neuronal-pathway-rats-social-grooming.html

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