Friendly Memories

Are we friends… or… ANTI-FRIENDS?!


This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.


Humans are constantly interacting with others. And first impressions matter! When you see someone again, how does your brain recognize whether your past interactions were good or bad? 


Enter Eunji Kong and team at the Institute for Basic Science in South Korea. 


They paired subject mice with another mouse who represented either a reward or no extra benefit. When they were shown the reward mouse, the subject was trained to lick a water spout.


Results? Subjects could identify the reward mice and perform the specific trained behavior. Researchers even identified a group of active cells within their brains during these tasks. Inactivating these same cells prevented subject mice from distinguishing reward mice and neutral mice!


This discovery reveals that certain areas of the brain activate when we distinguish friends from strangers.


Hmm… Maybe the BEST reward is FRIENDSHIP…. NAH, that doesn’t sound right. Maybe cheese…


Kong, E., Lee, KH., Do, J. et al. Dynamic and stable hippocampal representations of social identity and reward expectation support associative social memory in male mice. Nat Commun 14, 2597 (2023).