Dominant and subordinate dispositions are not only determined genetically but also nurtured by environmental stimuli during neuroendocrine development. However, the relationship between early life environment and dominance behavior remains elusive. Using the IntelliCage-based competition task for group-housed mice, we have previously described two cases in which environmental insults during the developmental period altered the outcome of dominance behavior later in life. First, mice that were repeatedly isolated from their mother and their littermates (early deprivation; ED), and second, mice perinatally exposed to an environmental pollutant, dioxin, both exhibited subordinate phenotypes, defined by decreased occupancy of limited resource sites under highly competitive circumstances. Similar alterations found in the cortex and limbic area of these two models are suggestive of the presence of neural systems shared across generalized dominance behavior.
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