Peripubertal Stress Increases Play Fighting at Adolescence and Modulates Nucleus Accumbens CB1 Receptor Expression and Mitochondrial Function in the Amygdala

Transl Psychiatry. 2018 Aug 15;8(1):156. doi: 10.1038/s41398-018-0215-6.


Play fighting is a highly rewarding behavior that helps individuals to develop social skills. Early-life stress has been shown to alter play fighting in rats and hamsters as well as to increase aggressive behaviors at adulthood. However, it is not known whether individual differences in stress-induced play fighting are related to differential developmental trajectories towards adult aggression. To address this question, we used a rat model of peripubertal stress (PPS)-induced psychopathology that involves increased aggression at adulthood. We report that, indeed, PPS leads to enhanced play fighting at adolescence. Using a stratification approach, we identify individuals with heightened levels of play fighting as the ones that show abnormal forms of aggression at adulthood. These animals showed as well a rapid habituation of their corticosterone responsiveness to repeated stressor exposure at peripuberty. They also showed a striking increase in mitochondrial function in the amygdala-but not nucleus accumbens-when tested ex vivo. Conversely, low, but not high players, displayed increased expression of the CB1 cannabinoid receptor in the nucleus accumbens shell. Our results highlight adolescence as a potential critical period in which aberrant play fighting is linked to the emergence of adult aggression. They also point at brain energy metabolism during adolescence as a possible target to prevent adult aggression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aggression
  • Amygdala / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Gene Expression*
  • Individuality
  • Male
  • Mitochondria / physiology*
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism
  • Psychopathology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reward
  • Stress, Psychological / genetics
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Cnrip1 protein, rat