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J Exp Biol. 2006 Dec;209(Pt 23):4581-9.

Interactions between the neural regulation of stress and aggression.

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Department of Biology, University of South Dakota, Vermillion, SD 57069 USA.


Socially aggressive interaction is stressful. What is more, social aggression is stressful for both dominant and subordinate animals. Much of the neurocircuitry for stress and aggression overlap. The pattern of neurochemical and hormonal events stimulated by social interaction make it clear that subtle differences in this pattern of response distinguish social rank. The neurotransmitter serotonin (5-HT) responds rapidly to stress, and also appears to play the most important role for inhibitory regulation of aggressive interactions. In addition, the adrenocortical/interrenal steroid hormones corticosterone and cortisol are responsive to stress and influence aggression. However, while 5-HT and glucocorticoids can both be inhibitory to aggression, the relationship between 5-HT and glucocorticoids is not straightforward, and much of the distinctions in function depend upon timing. Neither is inhibitory during the early stressful phase of aggression. This transmitter-hormone combination follows and influences a four-stage functional pattern of effect: (1) predisposed (positively or negatively) toward aggression, (2) motivated toward behavior, (3) responsive to stress (including aggression) and passively allowing aggression, and finally (4) chronically applied 5-HT and glucocorticoids inhibit aggression.

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