Encoding of social exploration by neural ensembles in the insular cortex

Isamu Miura, Masaaki Sato, Eric T.N. Overton, Nobuo Kunori, Junichi Nakai, Takakazu Kawamata, Nobuhiro Nakai, Toru Takumi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The insular cortex (IC) participates in diverse complex brain functions, including social function, yet their cellular bases remain to be fully understood. Using microendoscopic calcium imaging of the agranular insular cortex (AI) in mice interacting with freely moving and restrained social targets, we identified 2 subsets of AI neurons-a larger fraction of "Social-ON"cells and a smaller fraction of "Social-OFF"cells-that change their activity in opposite directions during social exploration. Social-ON cells included those that represented social investigation independent of location and consisted of multiple subsets, each of which was preferentially active during exploration under a particular behavioral state or with a particular target of physical contact. These results uncover a previously unknown function of AI neurons that may act to monitor the ongoing status of social exploration while an animal interacts with unfamiliar conspecifics.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere3000584
JournalPLoS Biology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Sept


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