Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Unraveling the complex sequence of molecular, biochemical, and neuronal cascades that transpire between gene action and behavioral phenotypes has been an exceptionally tough scientific nut to crack. The difficulties in connecting the links between genes and behavior have been especially problematic for social phenotypes, including species-typical social structure, in which multiple individuals are involved in interactions, and hence the appropriate behavioral responses are conditional on actions of a partner. Forty years ago, Robert Hinde (1) provided a critical insight into the dissection and analysis of social behavior, in which he argued that the social structure of a particular species is an emergent consequence of the nature, quality, and patterning of social relationships across time. These relationships, in turn, are dictated by the quality and content of social interactions among partners that derive from the social dispositions of the participants in the interaction. Although little was known about the neurobiological substrates of social behavior at the time, Hinde was sufficiently prescient to appreciate that individual differences in the propensity to engage in social behavior must be linked to variation in important and pervasive underlying neurobiological substrates. Furthermore, Hinde recognized that some of this variation would ultimately be tracked to genetic origins. Since 1976, much has been learned about the ways in which genes shape neurotransmitter systems, and this work has highlighted the role of genetic variability in both regulatory and coding regions of multiple genes in producing both individual differences (2⇓–4) and species diversity (5⇓⇓⇓–9) in social behavior. In PNAS, Bergey et al. (10) provide support for Hinde’s proposition, through evidence that genomic regions associated with dopamine (DA) signaling have diverged dramatically in two closely related species of baboons with markedly different social systems, despite a recent evolutionary split between the species.
French, Jeffrey, "Genes, dopamine pathways, and sociality in primates" (2016). Psychology Faculty Publications. 214.