Rodent models of aggressive behavior and serotonergic drugs

B Olivier, J Mos
Progress in Neuro-psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry 1992, 16 (6): 847-70
Various models of rodent agonistic behaviour are described, which differentiate between offensive and defensive/flight models. Particular attention is given to one male and one female paradigm for offensive aggression, viz. resident-intruder or territorial (RI) and maternal aggression (MA). After an overview of the serotonin (5-HT) system in the CNS, a description is given of the ligands available. Subsequently the effects of various drugs affecting serotonergic transmission in the RI- and MA-paradigms are described. The 5-HT1A agonists buspirone, ipsapirone and 8-OH-DPAT decreased aggression in RI and MA, but simultaneously led to a marked decrease in social interest and activity, indicative of a non-specific anti-aggressive profile. Non-selective 5-HT1 agonists, such as RU 24969, eltoprazine (DU 28853), and TFMPP reduced aggression quite specific and did not decrease social interest or exploration, but sometimes even increased these behaviours. In RI and MA the behavioural effects of these drugs were roughly similar. In contrast, MA was more sensitive to the treatment with the 5-HT reuptake blocker fluvoxamine, which blocked RI aggression only non-specifically at the highest dose. DOI, a 5-HT2 and 5-HT1C agonist, decreased aggressive behaviour and increased inactivity, without affecting social interest and exploration in RI as well as MA. This was, however, accompanied by 'wet dog shaking', characteristic of 5-HT2-receptor stimulation. The non-specific 5-HT agonist (and 5-HT3 antagonist) quipazine also induced 'wet dog shaking' at doses which suppressed aggression, social interest and exploration but increased inactive behaviours (sitting and lying). The discussion attempts to delineate a role for 5-HT receptor subtype involvement in the modulation of aggression, with the restrictions we clearly face with regard to the lack of specific serotonergic agonists and antagonists for certain receptor subtypes. By and large, male and female rats react similarly to treatment with serotonergic drugs stressing the consistent role of 5-HT in different forms of aggression.

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