Aggressive Behavior, Increased Accumbal Dopamine,
and Decreased Cortical Serotonin in Rats

van Erp AM, Miczek KA
Department of Psychology,
Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts 02155,
Departments of Psychiatry, Pharmacology, and Neuroscience,
Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts 02111.
J Neurosci 2000 Dec 15; 20(24):9320-9325


Dopamine (DA) and serotonin have been implicated in the regulation of aggressive behavior, but it has remained challenging to assess the dynamic changes in these neurotransmitters while aggressive behavior is in progress. The objective of this study was to learn about ongoing monoamine activity in corticolimbic areas during aggressive confrontations in rats. Male Long-Evans rats were implanted with a microdialysis probe aimed at the nucleus accumbens (NAC) or medial prefrontal cortex (PFC); next, 10 min samples were collected before, during, and after a 10 min confrontation. Rats continued to display aggressive behavior while being sampled, and they performed two to six attack bites as well as 140 sec of aggressive acts and postures. Dopamine levels in NAC were significantly increased up to 60 min after the confrontation. Peak levels of 140% were achieved approximately 20-30 min after the confrontation. No concurrent changes in accumbal serotonin levels were seen during or after the confrontation. Dopamine and serotonin levels in PFC changed in the opposite direction, with a sustained decrease in serotonin to 80% of baseline levels during and after the confrontation and an increase in dopamine to 120% after the confrontation. The temporal pattern of monoamine changes, which followed rather than preceded the confrontation, points to a significant role of accumbal and cortical DA and 5-hydroxytryptamine in the consequences as opposed to the triggering of aggressive acts. The increase in accumbal DA in aggressive animals supports the hypothesis that this neural system is linked to the execution of biologically salient and demanding behavior.
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