Addicted to Aggression? Brain Protein May Hold the Answer

With apologies to Homer Simpson, we might prepare ourselves to hear, “It’s true! I’m an aggression-holic! I just can get enough aggression-hol!” Such a confession would be in keeping with a new neuroscientific finding—a protein known to accumulate in the brain’s reward center in response to pleasurable experiences, such as sex and other “highs,” also appears to be associated with aggression.

Of course, the protein isn’t called aggression-hol. Instead, it is ΔFosB, a transcription factor known to regulate a range of reward and motivated behaviors. According to scientists based at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, ΔFosB expression has distinct roles in two different cell types in the nucleus accumbens (NAc)—regulating aggressive behavior and its rewarding qualities.

The scientists presented their work June 11 in the Journal of Neuroscience , in an article entitled ...