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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2004 Jan;171(2):148-55. Epub 2003 Sep 10.

Hyperactivity to novelty induced by social isolation is not correlated with changes in D2 receptor function and binding in striatum.

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Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, 171 77, Stockholm, Sweden.



Prolonged social isolation has been reported to induce different behavioral disturbances, among the most consistent of which are the increased locomotor response to novelty and the effects of psychostimulants. While these behavioral changes have been partly related to a dysregulation of dopaminergic activity in striatum (dorsal and ventral), the involvement of changes in the function of dopamine receptors is still a matter of controversy.


To investigate the effects of prolonged social isolation on the function of D2 receptors at both the behavioral and biochemical levels.


Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly placed at 21 days of age in groups or isolation for 2 months. Horizontal and vertical locomotor activities induced by novelty and also by systemic injections of the D2 agonist quinpirole (0.15, 0.50 and 1.5 mg/kg i.p.) and their modulation by the A2A agonist CGS 21680 (0.1 mg/kg i.p.) were studied. The effects of social isolation on the avoidance learning assessed by the passive avoidance test were also studied. Binding experiments were performed to study the number and affinity of D2 receptors by means of saturation and competition experiments with the D2 antagonist [(3)H]-raclopride and the interaction between D2 receptors and the G-protein by means of [(35)S]-GTPgammas binding in dorsal/ventral striatal membranes of both grouped and isolated rats.


Rats reared in isolation were hyperactive to a novel environment and showed shorter retention latencies in the passive avoidance test. Isolation rearing did not modify the increase in motor activity produced by quinpirole nor the counteraction of these effects by the simultaneous stimulation of A2A receptors. Likewise, the number, affinity and functional efficacy of D2 receptors were not changed by social isolation.


These results suggest that the hyperactivity to novelty and psychostimulants as well as other behavioral changes induced by social isolation do not parallel changes in the in vivo function or binding of D2 receptors in dorsal/ventral striatum.

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