Brain mechanisms involved in predatory aggression are activated in a laboratory model of violent intra-specific aggression

Aron Tulogdi, Mate Toth, Jozsef Halasz, Eva Mikics, Tamas Fuzesi, Jozsef Haller

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34 Citations (Scopus)


Callous-unemotional violence associated with antisocial personality disorder is often called 'predatory' because it involves restricted intention signaling and low emotional/physiological arousal, including decreased glucocorticoid production. This epithet may be a mere metaphor, but may also cover a structural similarity at the level of the hypothalamus where the control of affective and predatory aggression diverges. We investigated this hypothesis in a laboratory model where glucocorticoid production is chronically limited by adrenalectomy with glucocorticoid replacement (ADXr). This procedure was proposed to model important aspects of antisocial violence. Sham and ADXr rats were submitted to resident/intruder conflicts, and the resulting neuronal activation patterns were investigated by c-Fos immunocytochemistry. In line with earlier findings, the share of attacks aimed at vulnerable targets (head, throat and belly) was dramatically increased by ADXr, while intention signaling by offensive threats was restricted. Aggressive encounters activated the mediobasal hypothalamus, a region involved in intra-specific aggression, but sham and ADXr rats did not differ in this respect. In contrast, the activation of the lateral hypothalamus that is tightly involved in predatory aggression was markedly larger in ADXr rats; moreover, c-Fos counts correlated positively with the share of vulnerable attacks and negatively with social signaling. Glucocorticoid deficiency increased c-Fos activation in the central amygdala, a region also involved in predatory aggression. In addition, activation patterns in the periaqueductal gray - involved in autonomic control - also resembled those seen in predatory aggression. These findings suggest that antisocial and predatory aggression are not only similar but are controlled by overlapping neural mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1744-1753
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2010



  • Affective
  • Central amygdala
  • Hypothalamus
  • Periaqueductal gray
  • Predatory
  • Rat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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