Basal forebrain projections to the lateral habenula modulate aggression reward

Sam A. Golden, Mitra Heshmati, Meghan Flanigan, Daniel J. Christoffel, Kevin Guise, Madeline L. Pfau, Hossein Aleyasin, Caroline Menard, Hongxing Zhang, Georgia E. Hodes, Dana Bregman, Lena Khibnik, Jonathan Tai, Nicole Rebusi, Brian Krawitz, Dipesh Chaudhury, Jessica J. Walsh, Ming Hu Han, Matt L. Shapiro, Scott J. Russo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

166 Scopus citations


Maladaptive aggressive behaviour is associated with a number of neuropsychiatric disorders and is thought to result partly from the inappropriate activation of brain reward systems in response to aggressive or violent social stimuli. Nuclei within the ventromedial hypothalamus, extended amygdala and limbic circuits are known to encode initiation of aggression; however, little is known about the neural mechanisms that directly modulate the motivational component of aggressive behaviour. Here we established a mouse model to measure the valence of aggressive inter-male social interaction with a smaller subordinate intruder as reinforcement for the development of conditioned place preference (CPP). Aggressors develop a CPP, whereas non-aggressors develop a conditioned place aversion to the intruder-paired context. Furthermore, we identify a functional GABAergic projection from the basal forebrain (BF) to the lateral habenula (lHb) that bi-directionally controls the valence of aggressive interactions. Circuit-specific silencing of GABAergic BF-lHb terminals of aggressors with halorhodopsin (NpHR3.0) increases lHb neuronal firing and abolishes CPP to the intruder-paired context. Activation of GABAergic BF-lHb terminals of non-aggressors with channelrhodopsin (ChR2) decreases lHb neuronal firing and promotes CPP to the intruder-paired context. Finally, we show that altering inhibitory transmission at BF-lHb terminals does not control the initiation of aggressive behaviour. These results demonstrate that the BF-lHb circuit has a critical role in regulating the valence of inter-male aggressive behaviour and provide novel mechanistic insight into the neural circuits modulating aggression reward processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)688-692
Number of pages5
Issue number7609
StatePublished - 29 Jun 2016


Dive into the research topics of 'Basal forebrain projections to the lateral habenula modulate aggression reward'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this