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So That's Why They Call it Banging: Sex and Violence Linked in Mice

Happy Violence-tine's Day! As if you're even surprised, the same neurons that make you want to get down are also responsible for making you want to throw down. Maybe you were surprised, you romantic bastard. But even the suavest Don Juan in all of...
February 11, 2011, 5:50pm

Scientists in a spooky laboratory at the California Institute of Technology have gleaned that violent behavior in mice comes from neurons within a part of the brain associated with sex. As Nature reports, “there is good reason to believe humans possess a similar circuit.” From the paper’s summary:

Electrical stimulation of certain hypothalamic regions in cats and rodents can elicit attack behaviour, but the exact location of relevant cells within these regions, their requirement for naturally occurring aggression and their relationship to mating circuits have not been clear. Genetic methods for neural circuit manipulation in mice provide a potentially powerful approach to this problem, but brain-stimulation-evoked aggression has never been demonstrated in this species. Here we show that optogenetic, but not electrical, stimulation of neurons in the ventromedial hypothalamus, ventrolateral subdivision (VMHvl) causes male mice to attack both females and inanimate objects, as well as males. Pharmacogenetic silencing of VMHvl reversibly inhibits inter-male aggression. Immediate early gene analysis and single unit recordings from VMHvl during social interactions reveal overlapping but distinct neuronal subpopulations involved in fighting and mating. Neurons activated during attack are inhibited during mating, suggesting a potential neural substrate for competition between these opponent social behaviours.

As if you’re even surprised, the same neurons that make you want to get down are also responsible for making you want to throw down. Maybe you were surprised, you romantic bastard. But even the suavest Don Juan in all of Spain can’t deny science. Try to. You won’t.

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