Preprint Article Version 2 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Social Plasticity in the Fish Brain: Neuroscientific and Ethological Aspects

Version 1 : Received: 14 September 2018 / Approved: 16 September 2018 / Online: 16 September 2018 (08:43:23 CEST)
Version 2 : Received: 16 January 2019 / Approved: 17 January 2019 / Online: 17 January 2019 (03:48:04 CET)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.


Social plasticity, defined as the ability to adaptively change the expression of social behavior according to previous experience and to social context, is a key ecological performance trait that should be viewed as crucial for Darwinian fitness. The neural mechanisms for social plasticity are poorly understood, in part due to skewed reliance on rodent models. Fish model organisms are relevant in the field of social plasticity for at least two reasons: first, the diversity of social organization among fish species is staggering, increasing the breadth of evolutionary relevant questions that can be asked. Second, that diversity also suggests translational relevance, since it is more likely that “core” mechanisms of social plasticity are discovered by analyzing a wider variety of social arrangements than relying on a single species. We analyze examples of social plasticity across fish species with different social organizations, concluding that a “core” mechanism is the initiation of behavioral shifts through the modulation of a conserved “social decision-making network”, along with other relevant brain regions, by monoamines, neuropeptides, and steroid hormones. The consolidation of these shifts may be mediated via neurogenomic adjustments and regulation of the expression of plasticity-related molecules (transcription factors, cell cycle regulators, and plasticity products).


brain plasticity; cichlids; cleanerfish; social plasticity; social decision making network; zebrafish


Social Sciences, Behavior Sciences

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