FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Journal of Neuroscience:  MONDAY, JUNE 11th, 2018

Mount Sinai Researchers Discover That Aggressive Behavior and the Motivation to Act Aggressively Have Distinct Molecular Bases; Finding Suggests Possibility of Reducing Aggression by Targeting a Protein Associated with Addiction in a Reward Region of the Brain

Corresponding Author: Scott Russo, PhD, Director of the Center for Affective Neuroscience, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, and other coauthors.

Newswise — Bottom Line: Despite sharing core features with drug addiction, the mechanisms underlying aggression are far less understood.  One shared mechanism may involve a transcription factor called (∆FosB), which builds up in the nucleus accumbens (NAc), a reward region of the brain, in response to many different rewarding experiences including sex and exercise, suggesting the possibility of reducing aggression by targeting ∆FosB in the NAc.

Results: Higher levels of ∆FosB in NAc neurons were associated with more intense behaviors by aggressive mice defending their home cage from an intruder.  Overexpressing ∆FosB in aggressive mice also increased their dominance over an opponent when they faced each other in a narrow tube.  While increased ∆FosB in dopamine D1 receptor expressing medium spiny neurons (D1-MSNs) was associated with increased aggression intensity, mice with increased ∆FosB in D2-MSNs showed less preference for an environment where they previously encountered an intruder. 

Why the Research Is Interesting: These results identify distinct roles of ∆FosB in two difference NAc cell types that regulate aggressive behavior and its rewarding qualities, identifying molecular targets for developing new treatments for aggression.

Paper Title:  Cell-Type-Specific Role of ∆FosB in Nucleus Accumbens in Modulating Intermale Aggression

Said Mount Sinai's Dr. Scott Russo of the research:

“Heightened aggression or violence is a symptom of almost all psychiatric conditions, including addiction, yet we know very little about its underlying mechanisms. This study is among the first to report a shared molecular mechanisms underlying aggression and addiction, however, further work is needed to determine whether ∆FosB also underlies aggressive disorders co-morbid with addiction in humans.” 


To request a copy of the paper or to schedule an interview with Dr. Scott Russo, please contact Mount Sinai’s Director of Media and Public Affairs, Elizabeth Dowling, at [email protected] or at 212 241-9200.