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Dopamine is part of the reward system triggering the social decision-making network in the brain. It has hence great potential importance in the regulation of social behaviour, but its significance in the control of behaviour in highly social animals is currently limited. We studied the role of the dopaminergic system in social decision-making in the cooperatively breeding cichlid fish, Neolamprologus pulcher, by blocking or stimulating the dopaminergic D1-like and D2-like receptors. We first tested the effects of different dosages and timing of administration on subordinate group members' social behaviour within the group in an unchallenging environment. In a second experiment we pharmacologically manipulated D1-like and D2-like receptors while experimentally challenging N. pulcher groups by presenting an egg predator, and by increasing the need for territory maintenance through digging out sand from the shelter. Our results show that the D1-like and D2-like receptor pathways are differently involved in the modulation of aggressive, submissive and affiliative behaviours. Interestingly, the environmental context seems particularly crucial regarding the role of the D2-like receptors in behavioural regulation of social encounters among group members, indicating a potential pathway in agonistic and cooperative interactions in a pay-to-stay scenario. We discuss the importance of environmental information in mediating the role of dopamine for the modulation of social behaviour. Copyright © 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Diogo F Antunes, Marta C Soares, Michael Taborsky. Dopamine modulates social behaviour in cooperatively breeding fish. Molecular and cellular endocrinology. 2022 Jun 15;550:111649

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PMID: 35436519

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