Neuropharmacology of brain-stimulation-evoked aggression

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 1999;23(3):359-89. doi: 10.1016/s0149-7634(98)00040-2.


Evidence is reviewed concerning the brain areas and neurotransmitters involved in aggressive behavior in the cat and rodent. In the cat, two distinct neural circuits involving the hypothalamus and PAG subserve two different kinds of aggression: defensive rage and predatory (quiet-biting) attack. The roles played by the neurotransmitters serotonin, GABA, glutamate, opioids, cholecystokinin, substance P, norepinephrine, dopamine, and acetylcholine in the modulation and expression of aggression are discussed. For the rat, a single area, largely coincident with the intermediate hypothalamic area, is crucial for the expression of attack; variations in the rat attack response in natural settings are due largely to environmental variables. Experimental evidence emphasizing the roles of serotonin and GABA in modulating hypothalamically evoked attack in the rat is discussed. It is concluded that significant progress has been made concerning our knowledge of the circuitry underlying the neural basis of aggression. Although new and important insights have been made concerning neurotransmitter regulation of aggressive behavior, wide gaps in our knowledge remain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / drug effects*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor / drug effects*
  • Neuropharmacology / methods*
  • Stimulation, Chemical