Social behaviors are crucial to all mammals. Although the prelimbic cortex (PL, part of medial prefrontal cortex) has been implicated in social behavior, it is not clear which neurons are relevant or how they contribute. We found that PL contains anatomically and molecularly distinct subpopulations that target three downstream regions that have been implicated in social behavior: the nucleus accumbens (NAc), amygdala, and ventral tegmental area. Activation of NAc-projecting PL neurons (PL-NAc), but not the other subpopulations, decreased the preference for a social target. To determine what information PL-NAc neurons convey, we selectively recorded from them and found that individual neurons were active during social investigation, but only in specific spatial locations. Spatially specific manipulation of these neurons bidirectionally regulated the formation of a social-spatial association. Thus, the unexpected combination of social and spatial information within the PL-NAc may contribute to social behavior by supporting social-spatial learning. Prefrontal neurons that project to the accumbens encode a combination of social and spatial information and bidirectionally modulate social-spatial learning.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- calcium imaging
- medial prefrontal cortex
- nucleus accumbens
- social behavior