Corticotropin releasing factor influences aggression and monoamines: Modulation of attacks and retreats

R. E. Carpenter, W. J. Korzan, C. Bockholt, M. J. Watt, G. L. Forster, K. J. Renner, C. H. Summers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Salmonids establish social hierarchies as a result of aggressive social interactions. The establishment of dominant or subordinate status is strongly linked to neuroendocrine responses mediated through the stress axis. In this study, we tested the effects of introcerebroventricular (icv) corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) on the behavioral outcome, plasma cortisol and monoamine function in trout subjected to a socially aggressive encounter. Rainbow trout were treated with an icv injection of artificial cerebrospinal fluid (aCSF), 500 or 2000 ng ovine CRF, or not injected. Fish were allowed to interact with a similarly sized conspecific for 15 min. Following the behavioral interaction, plasma cortisol and central monoamine concentrations were analyzed. Trout treated with CRF were victorious in approximately 66% of the aggressive encounters against aCSF-treated opponents. Trout injected with CRF exhibited a reduction in the total number of attacks and decreased latency to attack. When trout were divided into winners and losers, only victorious CRF-treated fish exhibited a reduced latency to attack and fewer retreats. Social stress increased cortisol levels in both winners and losers of aggressive interaction. This effect was enhanced with the additional stress incurred from icv injection of aCSF. However, icv CRF in addition to social stress decreased plasma cortisol in both winners and losers. While aggression stimulated significant changes in serotonergic and dopaminergic activity, the magnitude and direction were dependent on limbic brain region, CRF dose, and outcome of social aggression. With broad effects on aggressive behavior, anxiety, stress responsiveness, and central monoaminergic activity, CRF plays an important role in modulating the behavioral components of social interaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)412-425
Number of pages14
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 23 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • 5-HT
  • CRF
  • aggression
  • cortisol
  • dopamine
  • rainbow trout

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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