Bidirectional cingulate-dependent danger information transfer across rats

Yingying Han, Rune Bruls, Efe Soyman, Rajat Mani Thomas, Vasiliki Pentaraki, Naomi Jelinek, Mirjam Heinemans, Iege Bassez, Sam Verschooren, Illanah Pruis, Thijs Van Lierde, Nathaly Carrillo, Valeria Gazzola, Maria Carrillo, Christian Keysers

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Social transmission of freezing behavior has been conceived of as a one-way phenomenon in which an observer "catches" the fear of another. Here, we use a paradigm in which an observer rat witnesses another rat receiving electroshocks. Bayesian model comparison and Granger causality show that rats exchange information about danger in both directions: how the observer reacts to the demonstrator's distress also influences how the demonstrator responds to the danger. This was true to a similar extent across highly familiar and entirely unfamiliar rats but is stronger in animals preexposed to shocks. Injecting muscimol in the anterior cingulate of observers reduced freezing in the observers and in the demonstrators receiving the shocks. Using simulations, we support the notion that the coupling of freezing across rats could be selected for to more efficiently detect dangers in a group, in a way similar to cross-species eavesdropping.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e3000524
JournalPLoS Biology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


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