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The effects of glucocorticoids on aggression can be conceptualized based on its mechanisms of action. These hormones can affect cell function non-genomically within minutes, primarily by affecting the cell membrane. Overall, such effects are activating and promote both metabolic preparations for the fight and aggressive behavior per se. Chronic increases in glucocorticoids activate genomic mechanisms and are depressing overall, including the inhibition of aggressive behavior. Finally, excessive stressors trigger epigenetic phenomena that have a large impact on brain programming and may also induce the reprogramming of neural functions. These induce qualitative changes in aggression that are deemed abnormal in animals, and psychopathological and criminal in humans. This review aims at deciphering the roles of glucocorticoids in aggression control by taking in view the three mechanisms of action often categorized as acute, chronic, and toxic stress based on the duration and the consequences of the stress response. It is argued that the tripartite way of influencing aggression can be recognized in all three animal, psychopathological, and criminal aggression and constitute a framework of mechanisms by which aggressive behavior adapts to short-term and log-term changes in the environment. © 2022. The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.


Jozsef Haller. Glucocorticoids and Aggression: A Tripartite Interaction. Current topics in behavioral neurosciences. 2022;54:209-243

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PMID: 35362871

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