Appraising the Role of the Hippocampus in Mediating Prosocial Behaviors

Jay Kumar Gupta : Molecular and Cellular Biology & Psychology

Mentor: Daniela Kaufer, Integrative Biology

Humans display an intrinsic capability for prosocial behaviors: behaviors undertaken to benefit others. Stress disrupts this capability but also induces neurogenesis in the hippocampus, a brain region that functions in social memory. Understanding the relationship between stress and prosociality allows better treatment of diseases such as Autism Spectrum Disorder and depression, as the asocial nature of these disorders puts affected individuals at increased risk for anxiety. The neural and hormonal basis of this relationship is explored through a behavioral paradigm involving rats. Given that the hippocampus directly projects to components of the stress response and is acted on by chemicals secreted during stress, Jay’s project examines hippocampal activity during prosocial behaviors as observed in rats. This activity is measured with immunohistochemical staining and fMRI scans of the rats’ brains.