Factors influencing aggression toward females by male rats exposed to anabolic androgenic steroids during puberty

Rebecca L. Cunningham, Marilyn Y. McGinnis

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Abstract

Previous results showed that male rats pubertally exposed to anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) displayed aggression towards females in response to physical provocation. This experiment examined two factors that may modulate AAS-induced behavior towards females: olfactory cues and frustration. Gonadally intact males began one of three AAS treatments at puberty (D40): testosterone propionate (T), stanozolol (S), T + S, or vehicle control. To test for the relevance of olfactory cues in the elicitation of behavior toward females, a hidden neighbor paradigm was used. The proximal stimulus was an ovariectomized (OVX) female, estrogen plus progesterone (E + P) female, or an E + P female with tape-obstructed vagina (OBS). Distal olfactory cues from a hidden neighbor were delivered from a separate cage connected to the testing arena. The vaginally obstructed, sexually receptive female (OBS) was used to determine the effects of frustration on behavior by AAS males. Both sexual and aggressive behaviors were measured. The presence of distal olfactory cues had no effect on either sexual or aggressive behavior. In the presence of E + P and OBS females, all males displayed sex behaviors, not aggression. However, AAS males displayed significantly more aggression towards proximal OVX females than controls. AAS males mounted OBS females significantly more than controls, indicating a persistence of once rewarded behavior. These results suggest (1) proximal cues of the conspecific female are more salient than distal olfactory cues in determining behavior and (2) AAS males display frustration-induced persistence in response to vaginally obstructed receptive females.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-141
Number of pages7
JournalHormones and Behavior
Volume51
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007

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Keywords

  • Aggression
  • Male sex behavior
  • Persistence

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