We all know that scientists just don’t like mice. But now it turns out that this long-standing hatred has somehow resulted in empirical data.
So in the usual, day-to-day, mouse-hating life of the lab geeks, one of them decided to try to measure the “winner effect,” i.e. that winners in previous contests will continue to win, perhaps boosted by the resultant testosterone. So instead of having the normal Schadenfreude-enducing random caged mice fights, the scientists decided to frame the mice fight clubs in the format of a tournament so they could study this possible effect:
We examined this issue in the territorial California mouse (Peromyscus californicus) because males of this species are more likely to win fights after accruing victories in their home territory but not after accruing victories in unfamiliar locations. Using immunocytochemistry and real-time quantitative PCR, we found that winning fights either at home or away increases the expression of androgen receptors (AR) in the medial anterior bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, a key brain area that controls social aggression. We also found that AR expression in brain regions that mediate motivation and reward, nucleus accumbens (NAcc) and ventral tegmental area (VTA), increases only in response to fights in the home territory.
So these mice basically got more pumped up from fighting, won more, and were more inclined to continue fighting when they were set up to win while on their own turf, but not when they were similarly set up to win in an unfamiliar environment. So the next time you think you’re flying into an uncontrollable rage, get out of town for a while and maybe that will make you more docile (?). I don’t know. Whatever.