Research Topic

Avian Models for Social Cohesion

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Animals living in groups are often linked to group or family members stronger than to other conspecifics, and form stronger coalitions (often based on genetic relatedness) within such groups. Effective cooperation within a group requires the preference for proximity of group members, suppression of aggression ...

Animals living in groups are often linked to group or family members stronger than to other conspecifics, and form stronger coalitions (often based on genetic relatedness) within such groups. Effective cooperation within a group requires the preference for proximity of group members, suppression of aggression toward conspecifics, an ability to perceive and respond to social signals and to change (often synchronize) behavior accordingly.

Birds have long been used for a number of investigations involving sensory perception, learning, feeding stategies and vocal communication. Recently, they have been proposed as ideal model species even for psychiatric disorders affecting social cohesion, such as autism spectrum disorder.

The physiological mechanisms and neural systems underlying different forms of sociability (sexual and parental bonding, group preference, nesting, care for offspring, migration) can often be studied easier in birds, since their social behavioral repertoire, as a taxon (but sometimes also as individuals), is more diverse than that of mammals. By contrast with laboratory rodents, birds rely less on olfactory cues. Rather, they tend to use visual and acoustic signals for social interactions, much like humans.

Comparative approach and evolutionary relevance of studies using avian species have already yielded valuable results in several fields of neuroscience: learning and memory (imprinting), acoustic communication (birdsong), neurogenesis (seasonal changes in the song network). With the advent of robust novel methods in molecular biology, genomics and proteomics, information technology and electronic engineering; and also based upon an ever improving battery of behavioral tests, avian research in social cohesion has likely gained a new impetus.

In this Research Topic we welcome original research reports or review papers studying the neural systems and the molecular and physiological mechanisms underlying communication, signaling, social affection, group forming and synchronized or cooperative behaviors (social bonding and social cohesion) among the individuals of any bird species. We do not encourage submission of papers that are based exclusively on behavioral observations (whether from the laboratory or from the field), no matter how important they might be in avian ethology. An experimental approach focused on mechanisms is highly preferred. By compiling the suggested selection, we expect to find and to corroborate a firm linkage between the behavioral phenomena and the physiological, biochemical, morphological (e.g. neuroanatomical) or endocrine systems and mechanisms behind these. We expect to attract interest from a wide field of researchers across the globe.


Keywords: social attachement, flocking, vocal communication, reproductive strategies, avian neurobiology, neuroendocrine systems


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