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Neurobiology: Social Status Sculpts Activity of Crayfish Neurons

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Science  19 Jan 1996:
Vol. 271, Issue 5247, pp. 290-291
DOI: 10.1126/science.271.5247.290


While neurobiologists have long suspected that an animal's experiences must somehow change its nervous system, they have had little direct proof of that. Now researchers have identified a specific neuronal alteration that takes place in crayfish, depending on whether they are dominant or submissive. The work, which is described in a report on page.366, shows that the neuron that triggers the crayfish “tail-flip” reflex becomes much more responsive to the neurotransmitter serotonin in dominant crayfish than in submissive ones. Because the affected neuron is part of a well-studied neuronal circuit, neurobiologists should be able to unravel the molecular and cellular events by which the change occurs, as well as to ask how changes in this neuron and others combine to alter the animal's behavior.