Development of violence in mice through repeated victory along with changes in prefrontal cortex neurochemistry

Doretta Caramaschi, Sietse F de Boer, Han de Vries, Jaap M Koolhaas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)


Recent reviews on the validity of rodent aggression models for human violence have addressed the dimension of pathological, maladaptive, violent forms of aggression in male rodent aggressive behaviour. Among the neurobiological mechanisms proposed for the regulation of aggressive behaviour in its normal and pathological forms, serotonin plays a major role. However, the results on the detailed mechanism are still confusing and controversial, mainly because of difficulties in extrapolating from rodent to human psychopathological behaviour. Our aim was to investigate the involvement of serotonin in pathological aggression. We subjected mice genetically selected for high (SAL, TA, NC900 lines) and low (LAL, TNA, NC100) aggression levels to a repeated resident-intruder experience (RRI mice) or to handling as a control procedure (CTR mice). Pathological aggression parameters we recorded were aggression towards females and lack of communication between the resident and its opponent. In the same mice, we measured the monoamine levels in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region strongly involved in the regulation of motivated behaviour. Our results show that SAL mice augmented their proneness to attack and showed the most pathological phenotype, with disregard of the opponent's sex, high territorial behavioural patterns, and low sensitivity to signals of subordination. In contrast, TA and NC900 augmented their proneness to attack and low discrimination of the opponent's signals, without showing offence towards females. After repeated resident-intruder experience, serotonin levels in the prefrontal cortex were significantly lower in SAL than in LAL whereas dopamine turnover was significantly higher, compared to CTR mice. Serotonin turnover was significantly reduced in all RRI mice, with no strain differences. Noradrenaline was significantly lower in aggressive mice of the TA and NC900 lines compared to their low-aggressive counterparts, with no effect of the repeated resident-intruder experience. We conclude that social experience changes prefrontal cortex neurochemistry and elicits pathologically aggressive phenotypes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-72
Number of pages10
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2008


  • Aggression
  • Animals
  • Association Learning
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dopamine
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Motivation
  • Norepinephrine
  • Prefrontal Cortex
  • Reaction Time
  • Serotonin
  • Social Behavior
  • Species Specificity
  • Violence
  • Comparative Study
  • Journal Article


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