Modulation of sensory-motor integration for context dependence of behavior.

Modulation of sensory-motor integration as a general mechanism for context dependence of behavior.

Hoke KL, et al.

Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2012 Mar 1.

Social communication is context-dependent, with both the production of signals and the responses of receivers tailored to each animal’s internal needs and external environmental conditions. We propose that this context dependence arises because of neural modulation of the sensory-motor transformation that underlies the social behavior. Neural systems that are restricted to individual behaviors may be modulated at early stages of the sensory or motor pathways for optimal energy expenditure. However, when neural systems contribute to multiple important behaviors, we argue that the sensory-motor relay is the likely site of modulation. Plasticity in the sensory-motor relay enables subtle context dependence of the social behavior while preserving other functions of the sensory and motor systems. We review evidence that the robust responses of anurans to conspecific signals are dependent on reproductive state, sex, prior experience, and current context. A well-characterized midbrain sensory-motor relay establishes signal selectivity and gates locomotive responses to sound. The social decision-making network may modulate this auditory-motor transformation to confer context dependence of anuran reproductive responses to sound. We argue that similar modulation may be a general mechanism by which vertebrates prioritize their behaviors.

Source: Department of Biology, Colorado State University, 1878 Campus Delivery, Fort Collins, USA.

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