A Neural Mechanism Underlying Mating Preferences for Familiar Individuals in Medaka Fish

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Science  03 Jan 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6166, pp. 91-94
DOI: 10.1126/science.1244724

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Familiarity Does Not Breed Contempt

Female mating preference is influenced by social familiarity in various species from fish to primates. Okuyama et al. (p. 91) showed in Japanese rice fish that females prefer to mate with visually familiarized males over unfamiliar males and that this preference is mediated by specific neuromodulatory neurons in the female brain.


Social familiarity affects mating preference among various vertebrates. Here, we show that visual contact of a potential mating partner before mating (visual familiarization) enhances female preference for the familiarized male, but not for an unfamiliarized male, in medaka fish. Terminal-nerve gonadotropin-releasing hormone 3 (TN-GnRH3) neurons, an extrahypothalamic neuromodulatory system, function as a gate for activating mating preferences based on familiarity. Basal levels of TN-GnRH3 neuronal activity suppress female receptivity for any male (default mode). Visual familiarization facilitates TN-GnRH3 neuron activity (preference mode), which correlates with female preference for the familiarized male. GnRH3 peptides, which are synthesized specifically in TN-GnRH3 neurons, are required for the mode-switching via self-facilitation. Our study demonstrates the central neural mechanisms underlying the regulation of medaka female mating preference based on visual social familiarity.

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