Increased brain glucocorticoid actions following social defeat in rats facilitates the long-term establishment of social subordination

Physiol Behav. 2018 Mar 15;186:31-36. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2018.01.008. Epub 2018 Jan 10.


Social rank is frequently established through aggressive encounters between new conspecifics. Despite increasing evidence suggesting that social rank is critical for the well-being of both humans and animals, knowledge about the factors influencing social rank remain scarce. Stress was previously shown to affect the establishment and maintenance of social hierarchies in rats. Likewise, increasing systemic corticosterone levels post-encounter in the emerging subordinate rat facilitates the long-term establishment of social subordination. Here, we investigated whether central corticosterone actions are sufficient to mediate this effect. Our data shows that, indeed, an intracerebroventricular corticosterone injection given to the emerging subordinate rat facilitates the long-term maintenance of the subordinate rank. Next, we attempted to identify a particular brain region in which enhancement of corticosterone actions could be sufficient to exert the facilitation of a long-term maintenance in the emerging subordinate brain. However, post-encounter administration of corticosterone into the basolateral amygdala, medial amygdala, lateral septum and the nucleus accumbens, brain regions selected for their implication in social rank establishment and emotional modulation of memory, did not affect long-term social subordination. Our study highlights the involvement of intracerebral corticosterone actions on the facilitation of long-lasting subordinate behavior, likely by having a modulatory role in the neurobehavioral plasticity engaged in the shaping of social subordination.

Keywords: Basolateral amygdala; Corticosterone; Dominance hierarchy; Lateral septum; Medial amygdala; Memory; Nucleus accumbens; Rats; Social defeat.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Catheters, Indwelling
  • Central Nervous System Agents / administration & dosage
  • Corticosterone / administration & dosage
  • Corticosterone / metabolism*
  • Dominance-Subordination*
  • Male
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Central Nervous System Agents
  • Corticosterone