Rodents establish dominance hierarchy as a social ranking system in which one subject acts as dominant over all the other subordinate individuals. Dominance hierarchy regulates food access and mating opportunities, but little is known of its significance in collective behavior, for instance during navigation for foraging or migration. Here, we implemented a simplified goal-directed spatial navigation task in mice and found that the social context exerts significant influence on individual decision-making, even when efficient navigation rules leading to reward had been previously learned.
Thus, decision-making and consequent task performance were strongly dependent on contingent social interactions arising during collective navigation, yet their influence on individual behavior was outlined by dominance hierarchy. Dominant animals did not behave as leaders during navigation; conversely, they were most sensitive to social context. Social ranking in turn was reflected in the neural activity and connectivity patterns of the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, both in anesthetized and behaving mice.
These results suggest that the interplay between contingent social interactions and dominance hierarchy can regulate behavioral performance, supported by the intrinsic matrix of coordinated activity in the hippocampal-prefrontal circuit.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience