Friend or Foe? How Mice Decide to Make Love or War

Dog owners whose pets meet during a walk are familiar with the immediate sniffing investigation that typically ensues. Initially, the owners cannot tell whether their dogs will wind up fighting, playing, or trying to mount each other. Something is clearly happening in the dog’s brain to make it decide how to behave toward the other dog—but what is going on?


A new study from Caltech examines this question in mice: namely, how does a male mouse sniffing a newly encountered fellow mouse decide whether to make love or war—or to do neither and just mind its own business? The research reveals the neural circuitry that connects olfactory information about another mouse’s sex to decision-making points in the mouse brain that determine its behavior.


The study was led by postdoctoral scholars Bin Yang and Tomomi Karigo, and conducted in the laboratory of David Anderson, Seymour Benzer Professor of Biology, Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience Leadership Chair, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, and director of the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience. A paper describing the findings titled “Transformation of neural representations in a social behavior network.” appeared online in the journal Nature on August 3. Yang, Karigo, and Anderson are the paper’s authors. Funding was provided by the National Institutes of Health and the Simons Collaboration on the Global Brain.


Read more on the TCCI for Neuroscience website