Behavior, adrenocortical activity, and brain monoamines in Norway rats selected for reduced aggressiveness towards man

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1989 May;33(1):85-91. doi: 10.1016/0091-3057(89)90434-6.


Wild Norway rats were selected over 20 generations for reduced aggressiveness towards man. Selection for this characteristic was accompanied by many physiological changes. Although neophobia was significantly inhibited, and irritable aggression reduced by selection, no changes were revealed in mouse-killing behavior or in intermale aggression. The mean level of 5-hydroxyindole acetic acid in the hypothalamus as well as serotonin (5-HT) content in the hypothalamus, the midbrain and the cortices was higher in the 'domesticated' than in aggressive rats. Mean hypothalamic norepinephrine (NE) level also tended to be higher in the 'domesticated' animals. The resting corticosterone level and the response of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis to an emotional stressor or intracerebroventricularly administered 5-HT or NE were decreased in domesticated rats compared to their aggressive counterparts. It is suggested that the diminution of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical function as a result of selection for domesticated types of behavior depends, at least partly, on changes in brain monoaminergic systems.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex / physiology*
  • Aggression / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Biogenic Monoamines / metabolism*
  • Brain Chemistry*
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Female
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid / metabolism
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Serotonin / metabolism


  • Biogenic Monoamines
  • Serotonin
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid
  • Corticosterone