Neuroscience Institute, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY 10016, USA; Department of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY 10016, USA; Center for Neural Science, New York University, New York, NY 10003, USA. Electronic address: [Email]
When resources, such as food, territory, and potential mates are limited, competition among animals of the same species is inevitable. Over bouts of agonistic interactions, winners and losers are determined. Losing is a traumatic experience, both physically and psychologically. Losers not only need to deploy a set of species-specific defensive behaviors to minimize the physical damage during defeat, but also adjust their behavior towards the winners to avoid future fights in which they are likely disadvantaged. The expression of defensive behaviors and the fast and long-lasting changes in behaviors accompanying defeat must be supported by a complex neural circuit. This review summarizes the brain regions that have been implicated in coping with social defeat, one centered on basolateral amygdala and the other on ventromedial hypothalamus. Gaps in our knowledge and hypotheses that may help guide future experiments are also discussed.