Certain regions of the hypothalamus are known to be important in aggression. Until recently, it has not been possible to learn much more than that because it was difficult to stimulate specific cell types within a mixed population of cells. David Anderson and colleagues have used optogenetics to solve this specificity problem, and find that optogenetic stimulation of neurons in a subdivision within the ventromedial hypothalamus can elicit inappropriate attack behaviours — but that electrical stimulation does not produce the same result. Additional analysis of genetic and electrophysiological activity revealed overlapping neuronal subpopulations involved in fighting and mating, with potential competition between these behaviours, as neurons activated during aggression are inhibited during mating.
Recent Hot Topics
Sign up for Nature Research e-alerts to get the lastest research in your inbox every week.