In a group setting, individuals’ perceptions of their own level of dominance or of the dominance level of others, and the ability to adequately control their behavior based on these perceptions are crucial for living within a social environment. Recent advances in neural imaging and molecular technology have enabled researchers to investigate the neural substrates that support the perception of social dominance and the formation of a social hierarchy in humans. At the systems’ level, recent studies showed that dominance perception is represented in broad brain regions which include the amygdala, hippocampus, striatum, and various cortical networks such as the prefrontal, and parietal cortices. Additionally, neurotransmitter systems such as the dopaminergic and serotonergic systems, modulate and are modulated by the formation of the social hierarchy in a group. While these monoamine systems have a wide distribution and multiple functions, it was recently found that the Neuropeptide B/W contributes to the perception of dominance and is present in neurons that have a limited projection primarily to the amygdala. The present review discusses the specific roles of these neural regions and neurotransmitter systems in the perception of dominance and in hierarchy formation
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