Social familiarity affects mating preference among various vertebrates. Here, we show that visual contact of a potential mating partner before mating (visual familiarization) enhances female preference for the familiarized male, but not for an unfamiliarized male, in medaka fish. Terminal-nerve gonadotropin-releasing hormone 3 (TN-GnRH3) neurons, an extrahypothalamic neuromodulatory system, function as a gate for activating mating preferences based on familiarity. Basal levels of TN-GnRH3 neuronal activity suppress female receptivity for any male (default mode). Visual familiarization facilitates TN-GnRH3 neuron activity (preference mode), which correlates with female preference for the familiarized male. GnRH3 peptides, which are synthesized specifically in TN-GnRH3 neurons, are required for the mode-switching via self-facilitation. Our study demonstrates the central neural mechanisms underlying the regulation of medaka female mating preference based on visual social familiarity.
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