Nancy Padilla-Coreano, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Neuroscience, University of Florida
Virtual via Zoom & projected in Communicore, C1-004
Most social species, from insects to humans, organize into social dominance hierarchies to decrease aggression, conserve energy, and maximize survival for the group. Individuals must consider their social rank in any social encounter and adjust their behavior accordingly. Despite social and dominance behaviors being critical for successful interactions with other group members, it is unclear how the brain encodes social rank. The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) has been implicated in social dominance expression in rodents, and in social rank learning in humans. However, how the mPFC encodes social rank and which circuits mediate this computation is unknown. We developed a social competition assay in which mice compete for rewards, as well as a computer vision tool, AlphaTracker, to track multiple unmarked animals. We found that mPFC population dynamics were predictive of social rank and competitive success. Finally, we identified a subpopulation of mPFC cells that project to the lateral hypothalamus that drive dominance behavior during the reward competition.
Bio: Dr. Padilla-Coreano studies the neural dynamics and circuits underlying social dominance. By combining novel behavioral assays, wireless electrophysiology, optogenetics and machine learning, her research shows that a prefrontal-hypothalamic circuit encodes and modulates social dominance in mice. She is a L’Oreal for Women in Science Fellow and was recently awarded a BRAIN Initiative Pathway to Independence Award and the inaugural Henry Grass, M.D. Rising Stars in Neuroscience award. Dr. Padilla-Coreano recently started her laboratory in the University of Florida Neuroscience Department, where she will study the neural mechanisms of social competence.
Dr. Edward Phelps