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Physiol Behav. 2011 Jun 1;103(3-4):365-71. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2011.03.010. Epub 2011 Mar 17.

Social interaction and sex differences influence rat temperature circadian rhythm under LD cycles and constant light.

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Departament de Fisiologia, Facultat de Farmàcia, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain.


Circadian rhythms produce an efficient organization of animal behaviour over the 24h day. In some species, social cues have been found to have a role as synchronizers of these rhythms. Here, the influence of social interaction on rat circadian behaviour was investigated, addressing the question of whether cohabitation would produce a delay in the appearance of arrhythmicity under constant light conditions. To this end, the circadian rhythms of male and female rat body temperature were studied for 10days under light-dark conditions, followed by 33days under constant bright light. Half of the animals were maintained in individual cages, whilst the others were maintained in larger cages in groups of three rats of the same sex. Results showed that individual circadian rhythms under 24hour light-dark (LD) cycles were more stable and with higher amplitude in grouped than in isolated animals, and higher in males than in females. During the first days under constant light (LL), the stability of the rhythm was also higher in males than in females, but there were no differences according to the group. Moreover, we did not find significant differences in the time of circadian rhythm loss under LL, since high individual variability was found for this variable. On the other hand, female rats living in isolation showed a delayed acrophase in the circadian rhythm under LD conditions compared with those living in groups. These results suggest that cohabitation increases the internal coherence of circadian behaviour, and could be interpreted as indicating that living in isolation may induce a level of stress that disturbs manifestation of the circadian rhythm, especially in females, which are also more reactive than males to external signals.

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