Vasopressin differentially modulates aggression and anxiety in adolescent hamsters administered anabolic steroids

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Adolescent Syrian hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus) treated with anabolic/androgenic steroids display increased offensive aggression and decreased anxiety correlated with an increase in vasopressin afferent development, synthesis, and neural signaling within the anterior hypothalamus. Upon withdrawal from anabolic/androgenic steroids, this neurobehavioral relationship shifts as hamsters display decreased offensive aggression and increased anxiety correlated with a decrease in anterior hypothalamic vasopressin. This study investigated the hypothesis that alterations in anterior hypothalamic vasopressin neural signaling modulate behavioral shifting between adolescent anabolic/androgenic steroid-induced offensive aggression and anxiety. To test this, adolescent male hamsters were administered anabolic/androgenic steroids and tested for offensive aggression or anxiety following direct pharmacological manipulation of vasopressin V1A receptor signaling within the anterior hypothalamus. Blockade of anterior hypothalamic vasopressin V1A receptor signaling suppressed offensive aggression and enhanced general and social anxiety in hamsters administered anabolic/androgenic steroids during adolescence, effectively reversing the pattern of behavioral response pattern normally observed during the adolescent exposure period. Conversely, activation of anterior hypothalamic vasopressin V1A receptor signaling enhanced offensive aggression in hamsters exposed to anabolic/androgenic steroids during adolescence. Together, these findings suggest that the state of vasopressin neural development and signaling in the anterior hypothalamus plays an important role in behavioral shifting between aggression and anxiety following adolescent exposure to anabolic/androgenic steroids.

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