We report changes in brain serotonergic, noradrenergic and dopaminergic activity, along with plasma cortisol concentrations, occurring during the initial 24-h period following the establishment of dominant-subordinate relationships in pairs of rainbow trout. Immediately (within 5 min) after the termination of staged fights for social dominance, a large increase in blood plasma cortisol was observed in both fight losers (future subordinate fish) and winners (future dominant fish). In dominant fish, cortisol decreased rapidly (within 3 h) to the level of unstressed controls, while continuing to increase in subordinate fish. At 3 h following fights, the brain serotonergic system was activated in both dominant fish and subordinate fish, at least in some brain regions (telencephalon). This effect was reversed in dominant individuals within 24 h of social interaction, whereas in subordinate fish a substantial activation of the serotonergic system was manifest in all brain regions by 24 h. Similarly, a strong increase in brain catecholaminergic activation was indicated after 24 h of social interaction in subordinate fish, but not in dominant fish. Relationships between plasma cortisol and brain serotonergic and noradrenergic activity in the various experimental groups suggest that these systems influence cortisol secretion under normal conditions and during moderate or short-term stress.

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