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What makes aggressive mice so violent

June 11, 2018

Aggressive behavior and the motivation to act aggressively have distinct molecular bases, according to a study of male mice published in JNeurosci. This finding suggests the possibility of reducing aggression by targeting a protein associated with addiction in a reward region of the brain.

Despite sharing core features with drug addiction, the mechanisms underlying aggression are far less understood. One shared mechanism may involve a transcription factor, ΔFosB, which builds up in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) in response to many different rewarding experiences, including sex and exercise.

Scott Russo, Elizabeth Heller, and colleagues found that higher levels of ΔFosB in NAc neurons were associated with more intense behaviors by aggressive mice defending their home cage from an intruder. Overexpressing ΔFosB in aggressive mice also increased their dominance over an opponent when they faced each other in a narrow tube. While increased ΔFosB in dopamine D1 receptor expressing medium spiny neurons (D1-MSNs) was associated with increased aggression intensity, mice with increased ΔFosB in D2-MSNs showed less preference for an environment where they previously encountered an intruder. These results identify distinct roles of ΔFosB in two different NAc cell types that regulate aggressive behavior and its rewarding qualities.
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Article: Cell-type-specific role of ΔFosB in nucleus accumbens in modulating intermale aggression
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0296-18.2018

Corresponding authors: Scott Russo (Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY, USA), scott.russo@mssm.edu and Elizabeth Heller (University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, USA), eheller@mail.med.upenn.edu

About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

Society for Neuroscience

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