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Behav Brain Res. 2010 Apr 2;208(2):528-34. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2009.12.038. Epub 2010 Jan 7.

Effects of photoperiod and experience on aggressive behavior in female California mice.

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Department of Psychology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


Aggressive behavior among females is observed in many species, but the mechanisms of this behavior have historically been understudied. In many species of rodents, winter-like short day photoperiods induce increased aggression levels compared to summer-like long day photoperiods. Recent reports in hamsters show that short days also increase aggression in females. We examined the effects of photoperiod on aggression in female California mice, and for the first time compare brain activity of aggression-tested female rodents under different photoperiods. We observed that female California mice were more aggressive when housed in short days versus long days. Intriguingly, we also observed that under long days female attack latency decreases with repeated testing in resident-intruder tests. These data suggest that winner effects that have been described in males may also occur in females. We also used the expression of phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinases (pERK) in the brain to estimate brain activity during aggression tests. pERK can alter neuronal activity in the short term and in the long term can act as a transcription factor. Using immunoblot analyses we observed that aggression-induced pERK expression in the female bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and medial amygdala occurs under both long and short days. Thus, the mechanisms controlling increased aggression under short days are still unclear and additional study is needed.

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