The social rank of an animal is distinguished by its behavior relative to others in its community. Although social-status-dependent differences in behavior must arise because of differences in neural function, status-dependent differences in the underlying neural circuitry have only begun to be described. We report that dominant and subordinate crayfish differ in their behavioral orienting response to an unexpected unilateral touch, and that these differences correlate with functional differences in local neural circuits that mediate the responses. The behavioral differences correlate with simultaneously recorded differences in leg depressor muscle EMGs and with differences in the responses of depressor motor neurons recorded in reduced, in vitro preparations from the same animals. The responses of local serotonergic interneurons to unilateral stimuli displayed the same status-dependent differences as the depressor motor neurons. These results indicate that the circuits and their intrinsic serotonergic modulatory components are configured differently according to social status, and that these differences do not depend on a continuous descending signal from higher centers.
Issa, F.A., Drummond, J., Cattaert, D., and Edwards, D.H. (2012). Neural circuit reconfiguration by social status. Journal of Neuroscience, 32(16), 5638-5645. Available at: http://www.jneurosci.org/content/32/16/5638.full.pdf+html