Animals operate in complex environments, and salient social information is encoded in the nervous system and then processed to initiate adaptive behavior. This encoding involves biological embedding, the process by which social experience affects the brain to influence future behavior. Biological embedding is an important conceptual framework for understanding social decision-making in the brain, as it encompasses multiple levels of organization that regulate how information is encoded and used to modify behavior. The framework we emphasize here is that social stimuli provoke short-term changes in neural activity that lead to changes in gene expression on longer timescales. This process, simplified mdash neurons are for today and genes are for tomorrow mdash enables the assessment of the valence of a social interaction, an appropriate and rapid response, and subsequent modification of neural circuitry to change future behavioral inclinations in anticipation of environmental changes. We review recent research on the neural and molecular basis of biological embedding in the context of social interactions, with a special focus on the honeybee.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-128
Number of pages20
JournalAnnual Review of Neuroscience
StatePublished - Jul 8 2021


  • biological embedding
  • neurogenomics
  • social decision-making
  • valence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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