Impaired social abilities are characteristics of a variety of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorder, and bipolar disorder. Studies consistently implicated the relationship between the anterior insular cortex (aIC) and social ability, however, how the aIC involves in processing specific subtypes of social ability was uninvestigated. We, therefore, investigated whether the absence or presence of the aIC affects the social behaviors of mice. We found that electrolytic lesions of the aIC specifically impaired mice’s ability to recognize a novel stranger mouse, while the sociability of the aIC-lesioned mice was intact. Interestingly, the aIC-lesioned mice were still distinguished between a mouse that had been housed together before the aIC lesion and a novel mouse, supporting that retrieval of social recognition memory may not involve the aIC. Additional behavioral tests revealed that this specific social ability impairment induced by the aIC lesion was not due to impairment in olfaction, learning and memory, locomotion, or anxiety levels. Together our data suggest that the aIC is specifically involved in processing social recognition memory, but not necessarily involved in retrieving it.
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