Living in large groups: Neural correlates of group affiliation and social network dynamics


Aubrey Kelly, Emory Univeristy

February 14, 2024 @ 04:00 pm to 05:00 pm

108 Wartik Laboratory
University Park

Despite the prevalence of large group-living in the animal kingdom, we know surprisingly little about how the brain facilitates grouping behavior, particularly in mammals, likely due to issues concerning the feasibility of keeping large groups of non-human mammals in a laboratory setting. Spiny mice (Acomys cahirinus) are a highly social, large group-living rodent amenable for laboratory studies. I will discuss studies that characterize their behavioral phenotype, as well as experiments examining the neural mechanisms underlying preferences for affiliating in large groups, biased behavior toward kin, and social network dynamics.

About the Speaker:
Aubrey M. Kelly received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) in 2007. As an undergraduate, her research focused on examining courtship behavior in birds. During a gap year upon graduating, she worked as a research assistant at UCSD examining grouping and reproductive behavior in birds and social communication in honeybees. She then attended Indiana University for graduate school in the lab of James L. Goodson, completing her Ph.D. in Biology and Neuroscience, with a minor in Animal Behavior, in 2014. Her graduate research examined the evolution of the neural mechanisms underlying social behavior in closely related finch species that vary in sociality, ranging from highly territorial to highly social phenotypes. Upon receipt of an NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA Postdoctoral Fellowship, she joined the lab of Alexander G. Ophir in the Psychology Department at Cornell University. As a postdoc, using the socially monogamous prairie vole, her research examined the development of social behavior and the social brain. Dr. Kelly joined the faculty at Emory University in the Department of Psychology in August 2018. In the Kelly Lab at Emory, they are using a variety of behavioral, neural, and molecular techniques to: (1) determine neural circuitry that facilitates large group living and (2) examine how multiple [neuro]endocrine systems (i.e., steroids and nonapeptides in the oxytocin/vasopressin family) interact to produce rapid changes in social behavior, allowing an animal to adapt to their immediate surroundings.


Sonia Cavigelli