Aggression is a prevalent behavior in the animal kingdom that is used to settle competition for limited resources. Given the high risk associated with fighting, the central nervous system has evolved an active mechanism to modulate its expression. Lesioning the lateral septum (LS) is known to cause "septal rage," a phenotype characterized by a dramatic increase in the frequency of attacks. To understand the circuit mechanism of LS-mediated modulation of aggression, we examined the influence of LS input on the cells in and around the ventrolateral part of the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMHvl)-a region required for male mouse aggression. We found that the inputs from the LS inhibited the attack-excited cells but surprisingly increased the overall activity of attack-inhibited cells. Furthermore, optogenetic activation of the projection from LS cells to the VMHvl terminated ongoing attacks immediately but had little effect on mounting. Thus, LS projection to the ventromedial hypothalamic area represents an effective pathway for suppressing male aggression.
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