Sex differences in appetitive and reactive aggression

Antonio V. Aubry, C. Joseph Burnett, Nastacia L. Goodwin, Long Li, Jovana Navarrete, Yizhe Zhang, Valerie Tsai, Romain Durand-de Cuttoli, Sam A. Golden, Scott J. Russo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Aggression is an evolutionarily conserved, adaptive component of social behavior. Studies in male mice illustrate that aggression is influenced by numerous factors including the degree to which an individual finds aggression rewarding and will work for access to attack and subordinate mice. While such studies have expanded our understanding of the molecular and circuit mechanisms of male aggression very little is known about female aggression, within these established contexts. Here we use an ethologically relevant model of male vs. female aggression by pair housing adult male and female outbred CFW mice with opposite sex cage mates. We assess reactive (defensive) aggression in the resident intruder (RI) test and appetitive (rewarding) aggression in the aggression conditioned place preference (CPP) and operant self-administration (SA) tests. Our results show dramatic sex differences in both qualitative and quantitative aspects of reactive vs. appetitive aggression. Males exhibit more wrestling and less investigative behavior during RI, find aggression rewarding, and will work for access to a subordinate to attack. Females exhibit more bites, alternate between aggressive behaviors and investigative behaviors more readily during RI, however, they do not find aggression to be rewarding or reinforcing. These results establish sex differences in aggression in mice, providing an important resource for the field to better understand the circuit and molecular mechanisms of aggression in both sexes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1746-1754
Number of pages9
Issue number10
StatePublished - Sep 2022


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