DOI: 10.1101/452169Oct 25, 2018Paper

Cingulate dependent social risk assessment in rats

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Yingying HanChristian Keysers


Social transmission of distress has been conceived of as a one-way phenomenon in which an observer catches the emotions of another. Here we use a paradigm in which an observer rat witnesses another receive electroshocks. Bayesian model comparison and Granger causality argue against this one-way vision in favor of bidirectional information transfer: how the observer reacts to the demonstrator's distress influences the behavior of the demonstrator. Intriguingly, this was true to a similar extent across highly familiar and entirely unfamiliar rats. Injecting muscimol in the anterior cingulate of observers reduced freezing in the observers and in the demonstrators receiving the shocks. That rats share the distress of unfamiliar strains is at odds with evolutionary thinking that empathy should be biased towards close individuals. Using simulations, we support the complementary notion that distress transmission could be selected to more efficiently detect dangers in a group.

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