AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 27, Number 2, 2018

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How a Seahorse-Shaped Brain Structure May Help Us Recognize Others

Study in mice reveals an oxytocin-fueled brain circuit that regulates social recognition

How do we recognize others? How do we know friend from foe, threat from reward? How does the brain compute the multitude of cues telling us that Susan is not Erica even though they look alike? The complexity of social interactions—human as well as mammalian—has mystified brain researchers for decades. 

Now a new study conducted in mice by regenerative neuroscientists at Harvard Medical School, the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital provides critical insights into the neural circuitry and signaling cascade that underlie social recognition.

The experiments show that social recognition is regulated by a lattice of oxytocin-sensitive neurons in a part of the hippocampus, a seahorse shaped structure in the brain responsible for memory formation. 

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