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Neural Circuitry and Genetics of Aggression

Like fear, anger is a highly conserved emotion. It is typically expressed as aggression, an innate social behavior with species-specific motor programs. We seek to understand the neural circuits that mediate the "core" behavioral program of aggression. What are the sensory cues that trigger aggression, and where and how in the brain are they transformed into a behavioral output? What is the relationship of aggression circuits to those mediating opponent social behaviors, such as mating? Do these circuits involve distinct, overlapping or the same populations of neurons? How is competition between these behaviors controlled, at the circuit level? Finally, how is aggression regulated by environmental factors (e.g., social experience with conspecifics), and by genetic influences? Can we identify the neural substrates of "nature vs. nurture" influences on aggressiveness? We are addressing these questions using genetically based approaches to neural circuit mapping and manipulation, in both Drosophila and mice.


Weizhe Hong, postdoctoral fellow
Moriel Zelikowsky, postdoctoral fellow
Ryan Remedios, postdoctoral fellow
Kiichi Watanabe, postdoctoral fellow
Eric Hoopfer, postdoctoral fellow
Hyosang Lee, postdoctoral fellow
Liching Lo, research specialist
Yonil Jung, graduate student
Dong-Wook Kim, graduate student

Recent Publications

Lee, H., Kim, D.W., Anthony, T.E., Chang, A., Madisen, L., Zeng, H., and Anderson, D.J. (2014) Esr1-expressing neurons in the ventromedial hypothalamus control the progression and escalation of social interactions in mice.  Nature 

Asahina, K., Watanabe, K., Duistermars, B.M., Hoopfer, E.D., Gonzales, C.R., Eyjolfsdottir, E.A., Perona, P., and Anderson, D.J. (2014) Male-specific Tachykinin-expressing neurons control sex differences in levels of aggressiveness in Drosophila.  Cell 156:221-35

Anderson, D.J. (2012) Optogenetics, sex, and violence in the brain: implications for psychiatry.; Biol. Psychiatry. 7:1081-9. PubMed

Wang, L., Han, X., Mehren, J., Hiroi, M., Billeter, J.C., Miyamoto, T., Amrein, H., Levine, J.D., and Anderson, D.J. (2011) Hierarchical chemosensory regulation of male-male social interactions in Drosophila. Nat. Neurosci. 14:757-762

Lin, D., Boyle, M.P., Dollar, P., Perona, P., Lein, E.S. and Anderson, D.J. (2011). Functional identification of an aggression locus in the mouse hypothalamus. Nature 470:179-181

Wang, L., and Anderson, D.J. (2010). Identification of an aggression-promoting pheromone and its receptor neurons in Drosophila. Nature 463, 227-231. [PubMed]

Wang, L., Dankert, H., Perona, P., and Anderson, D.J. (2008). A common genetic target for environmental and heritable influences on aggressiveness in Drosophila. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 105, 5657-5663. [PubMed]