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      Serotonin and arginine–vasopressin mediate sex differences in the regulation of dominance and aggression by the social brain

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          Abstract

          There are profound sex differences in the incidence of many psychiatric disorders. Although these disorders are frequently linked to social stress and to deficits in social engagement, little is known about sex differences in the neural mechanisms that underlie these phenomena. Phenotypes characterized by dominance, competitive aggression, and active coping strategies appear to be more resilient to psychiatric disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compared with those characterized by subordinate status and the lack of aggressiveness. Here, we report that serotonin (5-HT) and arginine-vasopressin (AVP) act in opposite ways in the hypothalamus to regulate dominance and aggression in females and males. Hypothalamic injection of a 5-HT1a agonist stimulated aggression in female hamsters and inhibited aggression in males, whereas injection of AVP inhibited aggression in females and stimulated aggression in males. Striking sex differences were also identified in the neural mechanisms regulating dominance. Acquisition of dominance was associated with activation of 5-HT neurons within the dorsal raphe in females and activation of hypothalamic AVP neurons in males. These data strongly indicate that there are fundamental sex differences in the neural regulation of dominance and aggression. Further, because systemically administered fluoxetine increased aggression in females and substantially reduced aggression in males, there may be substantial gender differences in the clinical efficacy of commonly prescribed 5-HT-active drugs such as selective 5-HT reuptake inhibitors. These data suggest that the treatment of psychiatric disorders such as PTSD may be more effective with the use of 5-HT-targeted drugs in females and AVP-targeted drugs in males.

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          Most cited references 39

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          Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey

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            Intrasexual competition in females: evidence for sexual selection?

            In spite of recent interest in sexual selection in females, debate exists over whether traits that influence female-female competition are sexually selected. This review uses female-female aggressive behavior as a model behavioral trait for understanding the evolutionary mechanisms promoting intrasexual competition, focusing especially on sexual selection. I employ a broad definition of sexual selection, whereby traits that influence competition for mates are sexually selected, whereas those that directly influence fecundity or offspring survival are naturally selected. Drawing examples from across animal taxa, including humans, I examine 4 predictions about female intrasexual competition based on the abundance of resources, the availability of males, and the direct or indirect benefits those males provide. These patterns reveal a key sex difference in sexual selection: Although females may compete for the number of mates, they appear to compete more so for access to high-quality mates that provide direct and indirect (genetic) benefits. As is the case in males, intrasexual selection in females also includes competition for essential resources required for access to mates. If mate quality affects the magnitude of mating success, then restricting sexual selection to competition for quantity of mates may ignore important components of fitness in females and underestimate the role of sexual selection in shaping female phenotype. In the future, understanding sex differences in sexual selection will require further exploration of the extent of mutual intrasexual competition and the incorporation of quality of mating success into the study of sexual selection in both sexes.
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              Female competition and its evolutionary consequences in mammals.

              Following Darwin's original insights regarding sexual selection, studies of intrasexual competition have mainly focused on male competition for mates; by contrast, female reproductive competition has received less attention. Here, we review evidence that female mammals compete for both resources and mates in order to secure reproductive benefits. We describe how females compete for resources such as food, nest sites, and protection by means of dominance relationships, territoriality and inter-group aggression, and by inhibiting the reproduction of other females. We also describe evidence that female mammals compete for mates and consider the ultimate causes of such behaviour, including competition for access to resources provided by mates, sperm limitation and prevention of future resource competition. Our review reveals female competition to be a potentially widespread and significant evolutionary selection pressure among mammals, particularly competition for resources among social species for which most evidence is currently available. We report that female competition is associated with many diverse adaptations, from overtly aggressive behaviour, weaponry, and conspicuous sexual signals to subtle and often complex social behaviour involving olfactory signalling, alliance formation, altruism and spite, and even cases where individuals appear to inhibit their own reproduction. Overall, despite some obvious parallels with male phenotypic traits favoured under sexual selection, it appears that fundamental differences in the reproductive strategies of the sexes (ultimately related to parental investment) commonly lead to contrasting competitive goals and adaptations. Because female adaptations for intrasexual competition are often less conspicuous than those of males, they are generally more challenging to study. In particular, since females often employ competitive strategies that directly influence not only the number but also the quality (survival and reproductive success) of their own offspring, as well as the relative reproductive success of others, a multigenerational view ideally is required to quantify the full extent of variation in female fitness resulting from intrasexual competition. Nonetheless, current evidence indicates that the reproductive success of female mammals can also be highly variable over shorter time scales, with significant reproductive skew related to competitive ability. Whether we choose to describe the outcome of female reproductive competition (competition for mates, for mates controlling resources, or for resources per se) as sexual selection depends on how sexual selection is defined. Considering sexual selection strictly as resulting from differential mating or fertilisation success, the role of female competition for the sperm of preferred (or competitively successful) males appears particularly worthy of more detailed investigation. Broader definitions of sexual selection have recently been proposed to encompass the impact on reproduction of competition for resources other than mates. Although the merits of such definitions are a matter of ongoing debate, our review highlights that understanding the evolutionary causes and consequences of female reproductive competition indeed requires a broader perspective than has traditionally been assumed. We conclude that future research in this field offers much exciting potential to address new and fundamentally important questions relating to social and mating-system evolution. © 2010 The Authors. Biological Reviews © 2010 Cambridge Philosophical Society.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proc Natl Acad Sci USA
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                November 15 2016
                November 15 2016
                November 15 2016
                November 02 2016
                : 113
                : 46
                : 13233-13238
                Article
                10.1073/pnas.1610446113
                5135349
                27807133
                © 2016

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