Prepubertal social subjugation and anabolic androgenic steroid-induced aggression in male rats

R. L. Cunningham, Marilyn Y. McGinnis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Scopus citations

Abstract

Abused children are more prone to abuse drugs, such as anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS), as teenagers and display violence as adults. AAS use has been linked with elevated aggression. Thus, exposure to child abuse and AAS may potentiate aggression. A social subjugation paradigm was used as an animal model of childhood abuse to determine whether prior subjugation increases AAS-induced aggression in male rats. Prepubertal gonadally intact male rats were exposed to social subjugation, a novel cage experience, or remained undisturbed in their home cages. Experimental males were socially subjugated by being placed in the home cage of an adult male. At puberty, both subjugated and nonsubjugated rats were injected with either the AAS testosterone or vehicle. AAS treatment continued for 5 weeks. Aggression was measured during the last week of AAS exposure. AAS was then discontinued. Aggression was again tested 12 weeks after AAS withdrawal. Aggression was tested under three conditions: (i) physical provocation of the experimental male; (ii) provocation of the intruder male; and (iii) without provocation. Both AAS-treated males and socially subjugated males displayed significantly more aggression than did controls. Elevated aggression by subjugated males was still present 17 weeks after social subjugation. AAS males also showed increased aggression 12 weeks after AAS withdrawal. However, exposure to both social subjugation and AAS had no long-term effects on aggression. The results of the present study indicate that social subjugation may have lasting consequences on the expression of adaptive social behaviours.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)997-1005
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroendocrinology
Volume20
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2008

Keywords

  • Age
  • Corticosterone
  • Physical provocation
  • Ppen field
  • Testosterone

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