What Science is Saying About Mating and Aggression

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What Science is Saying About Mating and Aggression

While aggression and mating may look the same from the outside, what are scientists saying about how they're connected in the brain?

A Caltech scientist by the name of David Anderson is researching the connection between aggression and mating. Anderson primarily conducts these studies on mice, however there is some evidence that these observations also apply to human beings.


One of Anderson's main findings is that “Aggression refers more to a description of behavior than the internal state. Aggression could reflect fear, anger, hungry (in animals).” This nuanced view of aggression pairs with Anderson's clarification that aggression is not generated by testosterone alone, but by a combination of both " estrogen and the aromatase of testosterone into estrogen".


But what does that have to do with mating? Well Dr. Anderson explains that there maybe a connection between a person's sense of temperature, aggression and mating. Visually, aggression and mating can look the same from an outside perspective, but how does it compare internally?


Dr. Anderson has written a paper comparing the mounting behavior of mice in sexual contexts and aggressive contexts. However, the mice display clear behaviors surrounding the mounting to indicate if it is sexual or aggressive. The brain scans of the mice demonstrated that different areas of the brain we're being activated for aggressive mounting and mating.


So this demonstrates that mating and aggression are categorized differently in the brains of these mice, however that doesn't necessarily mean they aren't connected. Dr. Anderson proposes that aggression and sexual arousal are two side of the same coin, and uses the concept of valence to explain it. The two sides of this valence is sexual arousal is positive valence, while aggression is negative valence. While the behaviors of mating and aggression may look the same externally, our internal feeling are distinctly positive or negative.



Cited: Podcast Notes Episode 89: Dr. David Anderson – The Biology Of Aggression, Mating, & Arousal | Huberman Lab