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The neuromodulator serotonin is an important regulator of aggressive behavior in vertebrates. Experimentally increasing synaptic levels of serotonin with fluoxetine, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, has been shown to reliably decrease the expression of aggressive behavior. Here, we describe a method by which fluoxetine can be noninvasively administered to male Betta splendens (an attractive model for the study of aggressive behavior) and describe a simple laboratory exercise that allows students to experimentally investigate the physiological mechanisms of aggressive behavior. We demonstrate that relatively short-term exposure (3 h) of male bettas to as little as 3 Âµg/ml of fluoxetine-treated aquarium water is sufficient to reduce the expression of specific aggressive behaviors. We emphasize the physiological concepts that can be addressed with this exercise, including the role of the serotonergic system in regulating aggression, and the interplay of environmental contaminants and physiology in regulating the expression of behavior. We also highlight important aspects of experimental design. This exercise can be flexibly altered to accommodate one or several laboratory periods. It is also low cost, is low impact to the animals, and requires minimal preparation time for instructors.
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