News Release 

How experiencing traumatic stress leads to aggression

Strengthened amygdala pathways increase aggression, may be targets for PTSD treatment

Society for Neuroscience

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IMAGE: Attacking another animal or experiencing traumatic stress strengthens amygdala pathways and leads to aggressive behavior. view more 

Credit: Nordman et al., JNeurosci 2020

Traumatic stress can cause aggression by strengthening two brain pathways involved in emotion, according to research recently published in JNeurosci. Targeting those pathways via deep brain stimulation may stymie aggression associated with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The consequences of traumatic stress linger long after the stress ends. People suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder often display heightened aggression, caused by unknown changes in the amygdala. An almond-shaped structure nestled deep inside the brain, the amygdala plays an essential role in emotion, social behaviors, and aggression.

Nordman et al. examined how different amygdala circuits changed in male mice after traumatic stress. Two connections strengthened, resulting in more attacks on other mice: the circuitry connecting the amygdala to the ventromedial hypothalamus and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. The former modulates the frequency of attacks, while the latter controls the length of attacks. The research team then used low frequencies of light to stop the pathways from strengthening, preventing an increase in aggressive behavior. Deep brain stimulation may elicit the same effect in humans.

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Manuscript title: Potentiation of Divergent Medial Amygdala Pathways Drives Experience-Dependent Aggression Escalation

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About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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