Neural representations of kinship
Ann M. Clemens & Michael Brecht
While the fundamental relevance of kinship behavior for evolutionary and behavioral biology has long been recognized, the examination of kinship behavior from a neuroscience perspective is still in its infancy. Kinship is highly conserved from single-celled organisms to humans, where kin preferences are prevalent in behavior and vocal communication. Kin recognition mechanisms are varied, with evidence for both genetic and both prenatal as well as postnatal learning-based kin recognition. Learned kinship mechanisms are predominant in vertebrates and allow for flexibility regarding the concept of kin. We review new evidence for the lateral septum and its role in kinship behavior. We further discuss the discovery of nepotopy, a topographical representation of kin- and nonkin-responsive neurons in the lateral septum. Neural representations of self/other, familiar/unfamiliar, and nepotopy (kin/nonkin) may support a circuit-level framework for a social template through which the mammalian brain learns, categorizes, and selects behavior based on perceived identity.