Horm Behav 2019 May 1. Epub 2019 May 1.
Department of Biology, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME 04011, USA.
Exhibiting behavioral plasticity in order to mount appropriate responses to dynamic and novel social environments is crucial to the survival of all animals. Thus, how animals regulate flexibility in the timing, duration, and intensity of specific behaviors is of great interest to biologists. In this review, we discuss how animals rapidly respond to social challenges, with a particular focus on aggression. We utilize a conceptual framework to understand the neural mechanisms of aggression that is grounded in Wingfield and colleagues' Challenge Hypothesis, which has profoundly influenced how scientists think about aggression and the mechanisms that allow animals to exhibit flexible responses to social instability. Because aggressive behavior is rooted in social interactions, we propose that mechanisms modulating prosocial behavior may be intricately tied to mechanisms of aggression. Therefore, in order to better understand how aggressive behavior is mediated, we draw on perspectives from social neuroscience and discuss how social context, species-typical behavioral phenotype, and neural systems commonly studied in relation to prosocial behavior (i.e., neuropeptides) contribute to organizing rapid responses to social challenges. Because complex behaviors are not the result of one mechanism or a single neural system, we consider how multiple neural systems important for prosocial and aggressive behavior (i.e., neuropeptides and neurosteroids) interact in the brain to produce behavior in a rapid, context-appropriate manner. Applying a systems neuroscience perspective and seeking to understand how multiple systems functionally integrate to rapidly modulate behavior holds great promise for expanding our knowledge of the mechanisms underlying social behavioral plasticity.