This study shows that the long-term consequences of a social conflict in rats do not depend on the physical intensity of the fight in terms of aggression received but, especially, on how the subjects deal with it. Experimental rats were introduced into the cage of an aggressive conspecific for 1 hr, and the effects on daily rhythms of heart rate, body temperature, and activity thereafter were measured by means of telemetry. In some rats, the confrontation caused a strong decrease in the daily rhythm amplitude that lasted up to 3 weeks, whereas other subjects showed only minor changes. The changes in rhythm amplitude did not correlate with the number of attacks received from the territory owner. Contrary to this, the changes showed a clear negative correlation with the aggression of the experimental rats themselves. Subjects fighting back and counterattacking the cage owner subsequently had a smaller reduction in rhythm amplitude.
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