Does serotonin influence aggression? Comparing regional activity before and during social interaction

Cliff H. Summers, Wayne J. Korzan, Jodi L. Lukkes, Michael J. Watt, Gina L. Forster, Øyvind Øverli, Erik Höglund, Earl T. Larson, Patrick J. Ronan, John M. Matter, Tangi R. Summers, Kenneth J. Renner, Neil Greenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations


Serotonin is widely believed to exert inhibitory control over aggressive behavior and intent. In addition, a number of studies of fish, reptiles, and mammals, including the lizard Anolis carolinensis, have demonstrated that serotonergic activity is stimulated by aggressive social interaction in both dominant and subordinate males. As serotonergic activity does not appear to inhibit agonistic behavior during combative social interaction, we investigated the possibility that the negative correlation between serotonergic activity and aggression exists before aggressive behavior begins. To do this, putatively dominant and more aggressive males were determined by their speed overcoming stress (latency to feeding after capture) and their celerity to court females. Serotonergic activities before aggression are differentiated by social rank in a region-specific manner. Among aggressive males baseline serotonergic activity is lower in the septum, nucleus accumbens, striatum, medial amygdala, anterior hypothalamus, raphe, and locus ceruleus but not in the hippocampus, lateral amygdala, preoptic area, substantia nigra, or ventral tegmental area. However, in regions such as the nucleus accumbens, where low serotonergic activity may help promote aggression, agonistic behavior also stimulates the greatest rise in serotonergic activity among the most aggressive males, most likely as a result of the stress associated with social interaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)679-694
Number of pages16
JournalPhysiological and Biochemical Zoology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Animal Science and Zoology


Dive into the research topics of 'Does serotonin influence aggression? Comparing regional activity before and during social interaction'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this