Rama / Wikipedia

A small group of neurons in the brains of mice may control whether males are aggressive or submissive in encounters with other males, according to new research.

Why it matters: Social dominance exhibited by certain males in groups — the basic definition of alpha males — is an important evolutionary trait in nearly every animal species (including, to a limited extent, humans). Male "winners" in aggressive contests or situations with peers accrue benefits, provided they keep winning.

Scientists have known for some time that a part of the brain (the dorsomedial pre-frontal cortex) is involved in regulating social dominance traits in males. What they didn't know was how it worked. In this new study, scientists tested the mechanism by pitting mice against each other, and then activating the neurons (or shutting them down) during those "showdowns" to see how they reacted.

What they found: Mice with the fired-up neurons in that part of the brain acted more like alpha males (pushing back, fighting, resisting, etc.), while those that had those neurons suppressed were more passive and less inclined toward social dominance behavior that characterizes "winning."

Go deeper

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
36 mins ago - Economy & Business

The dangerous instability of school re-openings

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Schools across the country have flip-flopped between in-person and remote learning — and that instability is taking a toll on students' ability to learn and their mental health.

The big picture: While companies were able to set long timelines for their return, schools — under immense political and social strain — had to rush to figure out how to reopen. The cobbled-together approach has hurt students, parents and teachers alike.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
46 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Trump doesn't have a second-term economic plan

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump has not laid out an economic agenda for his second term, despite the election being just eight days away.

Why it matters: This is unprecedented in modern presidential campaigns, and makes it harder for undecided voters to make an informed choice.

Amy Harder, author of Generate
1 hour ago - Energy & Environment
Column / Harder Line

How Trump’s energy endgame could go

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Expect President Trump to redouble his efforts loosening regulations and questioning climate-change science should he win reelection next month.

Driving the news: A second Trump administration would supercharge efforts by certain states, countries and companies to address global warming. But some wildcards could have a greener tinge.