Cognitive effects of social isolation:

Our lab investigates learning and memory processes involved in social interactions. The research aim is to understand the information processing in the neuronal networks involved in social interactions and to reveal the way by which this information is stored as memories, at the molecular, cellular and network levels. We are using a combination of behavioral, biochemical, molecular, electrophysiological and imaging methods in order to uncover cellular circuitry and to monitor changes in neuronal and molecular activity in these networks, during and following social interactions. To that end we use various versions of the social recognition memory paradigm. This memory was found in rodents to be mediated by information arriving through both the main and accessory olfactory systems to the recipient medial amygdala and sent from there to the lateral septum, which deliver the information to the hippocampus. We found that this memory is highly dependent on the housing conditions of the animals: the capability for long-term memory acquisition is completely lost within 1 day of isolation and can be reacquired within several days of regrouping the animals. We are now using in vivo electrophysiology and next-generation sequencing (NGS) to investigate the changes caused in the relevant brain areas by acute social isolation. We believe that this study may pave the way for understanding of the molecular and neuronal mechanisms underlying the destructive effects of social isolation on mental health, and for the development of efficient interventions.