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Behav Neurosci. 2004 Apr;118(2):298-305.

Neonatal amygdala lesions and juvenile isolation in the rat: differential effects on locomotor and social behavior later in life.

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Department of Pharmacology and Anatomy, Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, Netherlands.


Pervasive developmental disorders such as autism are characterized by deficits in social interaction and communication. Disturbed development of limbic structures such as the amygdala might underlie these deficits. The authors examined the effects of amygdala lesions on Postnatal Day 7 and juvenile isolation (2 weeks of individual housing during Weeks 4 and 5 of life) on rat locomotor and social activity later in life. Before puberty, but more pronounced after puberty, lesioned rats displayed enhanced locomotor activity. Adult social behavior was selectively disturbed by the lesion and the isolation procedure. In particular, the combination of neonatal lesions and juvenile isolation severely disrupted social interaction. These results suggest that a combination of neonatal amygdala damage and juvenile isolation may serve as an animal model of certain psychopathological neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism.

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