Fish as a model in social neuroscience: conservation and diversity in the social brain network

Satoshi Ogawa, Donald W. Pfaff, Ishwar S. Parhar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Mechanisms for fish social behaviours involve a social brain network (SBN) which is evolutionarily conserved among vertebrates. However, considerable diversity is observed in the actual behaviour patterns amongst nearly 30000 fish species. The huge variation found in socio-sexual behaviours and strategies is likely generated by a morphologically and genetically well-conserved small forebrain system. Hence, teleost fish provide a useful model to study the fundamental mechanisms underlying social brain functions. Herein we review the foundations underlying fish social behaviours including sensory, hormonal, molecular and neuroanatomical features. Gonadotropin-releasing hormone neurons clearly play important roles, but the participation of vasotocin and isotocin is also highlighted. Genetic investigations of developing fish brain have revealed the molecular complexity of neural development of the SBN. In addition to straightforward social behaviours such as sex and aggression, new experiments have revealed higher order and unique phenomena such as social eavesdropping and social buffering in fish. Finally, observations interpreted as ‘collective cognition’ in fish can likely be explained by careful observation of sensory determinants and analyses using the dynamics of quantitative scaling. Understanding of the functions of the SBN in fish provide clues for understanding the origin and evolution of higher social functions in vertebrates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)999-1020
Number of pages22
JournalBiological Reviews
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • aggression
  • amygdala
  • androgen
  • criticality
  • habenula
  • hypothalamus
  • oestrogen
  • reproduction
  • sex change
  • transcriptome

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