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Nat Neurosci. 2016 Apr;19(4):596-604. doi: 10.1038/nn.4264. Epub 2016 Mar 7.

Hypothalamic control of male aggression-seeking behavior.

Author information

1
Institute of Neuroscience, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York, USA.
2
Department of Bioengineering, Neuroscience Program, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA.
3
Department of Bioengineering and CNC Program, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA.
4
Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA.
5
Department of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York, USA.
6
Center for Neural Science, New York University, New York, New York, USA.

Abstract

In many vertebrate species, certain individuals will seek out opportunities for aggression, even in the absence of threat-provoking cues. Although several brain areas have been implicated in the generation of attack in response to social threat, little is known about the neural mechanisms that promote self-initiated or 'voluntary' aggression-seeking when no threat is present. To explore this directly, we utilized an aggression-seeking task in which male mice self-initiated aggression trials to gain brief and repeated access to a weaker male that they could attack. In males that exhibited rapid task learning, we found that the ventrolateral part of the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMHvl), an area with a known role in attack, was essential for aggression-seeking. Using both single-unit electrophysiology and population optical recording, we found that VMHvl neurons became active during aggression-seeking and that their activity tracked changes in task learning and extinction. Inactivation of the VMHvl reduced aggression-seeking behavior, whereas optogenetic stimulation of the VMHvl accelerated moment-to-moment aggression-seeking and intensified future attack. These data demonstrate that the VMHvl can mediate both acute attack and flexible seeking actions that precede attack.

Comment in

PMID:
26950005
PMCID:
PMC4853470
DOI:
10.1038/nn.4264
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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