High activity in a relatively poorly studied group of brain cells can be linked to aggressive behaviour in mice, a new study from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden shows.

Using optogenetic techniques, the researchers were able to control aggression in mice by stimulating or inhibiting these cells.

The results, which are published in the scientific journal Nature Neuroscience, contribute to a new understanding of the biological mechanisms behind aggressive behaviour.

Aggression is a behaviour found throughout the animal kingdom and that shapes human lives from early schoolyard encounters to - in its most extreme expression - armed, global conflict.

Like all behaviour, aggression originates in the brain.

However, the identity of the neurons that are involved, and how their properties contribute to the stereotyped expression that interpersonal conflicts often manifest, remains largely a mystery.

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