In a social context, individuals are able to detect external information from others and execute behavioral responses according to the situation faced, a phenomenon called social decision-making. The process of social decision-making is multifaceted, being influenced and dependent of several factors, such as age, emotion, sex, and familiarity. In this sense, adult rats prefer to interact with stressed juvenile conspecifics, but avoid stressed adult conspecifics. The central nervous system is responsible for coordinating these behaviors through a brain neural network known as the social decision-making network (SDMN). Additionally, brain structures connected with SDMN might send information to this complex network. The lateral hypothalamus (LH) is an important hypothalamic area that has been implicated in the control of social behaviors. In fact, LH involvement in generating social interaction has been demonstrated. However, an involvement of this hypothalamic area in control of social approach/avoidance behavior during interactions with stressed individuals, as well as how inputs from other nuclei could control this behavior is still unknown. The insular cortex (IC) has been considered a place of multisensory integration that incorporates socioemotional information into social decision-making processes. Anatomic studies suggest that IC neurons project directly to LH, and previous studies reported an involvement of this pathway in food approach. However, a role of the IC-LH pathway in social approach/avoidance behavior is still unknown. Thus, our proposal in the present study is to investigate an involvement of the LH in social approach/avoidance behaviors during the social affective test, as well as to explore the specific IC sites making anatomical connections with the LH.
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