Neurogenetics of Aggressive Behavior: Studies in Rodents

  • Aki TakahashiEmail author
  • Klaus A. Miczek
Part of the Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences book series (CTBN, volume 17)


Aggressive behavior is observed in many animal species, such as insects, fish, lizards, frogs, and most mammals including humans. This wide range of conservation underscores the importance of aggressive behavior in the animals’ survival and fitness, and the likely heritability of this behavior. Although typical patterns of aggressive behavior differ between species, there are several concordances in the neurobiology of aggression among rodents, primates, and humans. Studies with rodent models may eventually help us to understand the neurogenetic architecture of aggression in humans. However, it is important to recognize the difference between the ecological and ethological significance of aggressive behavior (species-typical aggression) and maladaptive violence (escalated aggression) when applying the findings of aggression research using animal models to human or veterinary medicine. Well-studied rodent models for aggressive behavior in the laboratory setting include the mouse (Mus musculus), rat (Rattus norvegicus), hamster (Mesocricetus auratus), and prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster). The neural circuits of rodent aggression have been gradually elucidated by several techniques, e.g., immunohistochemistry of immediate-early gene (c-Fos) expression, intracranial drug microinjection, in vivo microdialysis, and optogenetics techniques. Also, evidence accumulated from the analysis of gene-knockout mice shows the involvement of several genes in aggression. Here, we review the brain circuits that have been implicated in aggression, such as the hypothalamus, prefrontal cortex (PFC), dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN), nucleus accumbens (NAc), and olfactory system. We then discuss the roles of glutamate and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), excitatory and inhibitory amino acids in the brain, as well as their receptors, in controlling aggressive behavior, focusing mainly on recent findings. At the end of this chapter, we discuss how genes can be identified that underlie individual differences in aggression, using the so-called forward genetics approach.


Aggression Rodents Brain Circuit Glutamate GABA Neurogenetics 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mouse Genomics Resource LaboratoryNational Institute of Genetics, (NIG)MishimaJapan
  2. 2.Departments of Psychology, Psychiatry, Pharmacology and NeuroscienceTufts UniversityMedford and BostonUSA

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