Infoscience

Journal article

Long-term programming of enhanced aggression by peripuberty stress in female rats

Human literature has linked adverse early life experiences with an increased risk to develop violent behaviors in both boys and girls. We have previously shown that male rats submitted to stress during the peripuberty period display as adults abnormal aggressive behavior against both male intruders and female partners. In the present study, we examined whether the same stress protocol would affect the development of aggressive behaviors in female rats. We evaluated the behavior of these peripuberty stressed female rats when confronted, at adulthood, with either female or male intruders, and during their cohabitation with male partners. Given that estrus cycle influences mood and aggressive behaviors, female aggressive behavior was assessed at different estrus cycle phases: estrus and diestrus, and during pregnancy and lactancy. Additionally, we evaluated postpartum plasma levels of vasopressin, oxytocin and corticosterone, hormones associated with aggression and the regulation of social behavior. Compared to control females, females submitted to stressful events during puberty exhibited higher and more sustained rates of aggression during adulthood independently on the estrus cycle or the sex of the intruder, and they had higher levels of plasma vasopressin. Significant correlations between plasma levels of vasopressin and corticosterone and aggressive behavior were also found. Strikingly, our results showed opposite intragroup correlations suggesting a different role of these hormones on aggression depending on life experiences. We provide here an animal model, devoid of cultural influences strongly supporting a role for biological factors in the development of aggressive behaviors following exposure to stressful events at puberty in females

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