Synaptic Switch and Social Status

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Science  04 Nov 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6056, pp. 608-609
DOI: 10.1126/science.1214713

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In 1859, Charles Darwin introduced the key concept of natural selection—that in the struggle for survival and reproduction, individuals compete for the same resources. Hence, animals living in a social environment can establish dominance hierarchies within a short time, which remain stable during the existence of the group (1). This ranking within social communities has a fundamental advantage—it eliminates conflict in the group, which minimizes energy expenditure and violence, thereby allowing resource sharing (2). On page 693 of this issue, Wang et al. (3) demonstrate that encoding of social dominance in mice involves specific synapses in cortical regions of the brain.