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Brain activity helps build an alpha male

Experiments with dueling mice locate a brain region that helps them jump the pecking order

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2:00pm, July 13, 2017
mouse fight

SOCIAL CLIMBERS  Male mice competing over resources will establish a social pecking order.

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Boosting the activity of certain brain cells can help a mouse climb the social ladder.

Nerve cells in a region called the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex appear to control whether male mice are dominant or submissive to other males, researchers report in the July 14 Science. The finding adds to previous evidence that this brain region is involved in social interactions in mammals.

Like men flexing muscles or flaunting sports cars to win status, male mice compete to establish a social pecking order. When every mouse knows his place, there can be less social conflict in the long run, says James Curley, a neurobiologist at the University of Texas at Austin who wasn’t part of the study.

In dominance tests, researchers pitted mice head-to-head in a plastic tube too narrow for the animals to pass each other. With no way forward, the lower

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