Independent inhibitory control mechanisms for aggressive motivation and action

Tomohito Minakuchi, Eartha Mae Guthman, Preeta Acharya, Justin Hinson, Weston Fleming, Ilana B. Witten, Stefan N. Oline, Annegret L. Falkner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social behaviors often consist of a motivational phase followed by action. Here we show that neurons in the ventromedial hypothalamus ventrolateral area (VMHvl) of mice encode the temporal sequence of aggressive motivation to action. The VMHvl receives local inhibitory input (VMHvl shell) and long-range input from the medial preoptic area (MPO) with functional coupling to neurons with specific temporal profiles. Encoding models reveal that during aggression, VMHvl shellvgat+ activity peaks at the start of an attack, whereas activity from the MPO–VMHvlvgat+ input peaks at specific interaction endpoints. Activation of the MPO–VMHvlvgat+ input promotes and prolongs a low motivation state, whereas activation of VMHvl shellvgat+ results in action-related deficits, acutely terminating attack. Moreover, stimulation of MPO–VMHvlvgat+ input is positively valenced and anxiolytic. Together, these data demonstrate how distinct inhibitory inputs to the hypothalamus can independently gate the motivational and action phases of aggression through a single locus of control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNature neuroscience
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


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