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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011 Jul;36(8):1689-702. doi: 10.1038/npp.2011.50. Epub 2011 Apr 27.

Differential effects of dopamine receptor D1-type and D2-type antagonists and phase of the estrous cycle on social learning of food preferences, feeding, and social interactions in mice.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada.


The neurobiological bases of social learning, by which an animal can 'exploit the expertise of others' and avoid the disadvantages of individual learning, are only partially understood. We examined the involvement of the dopaminergic system in social learning by administering a dopamine D1-type receptor antagonist, SCH23390 (0.01, 0.05, and 0.1 mg/kg), or a D2-type receptor antagonist, raclopride (0.1, 0.3, and 0.6 mg/kg), to adult female mice prior to socially learning a food preference. We found that while SCH23390 dose-dependently inhibited social learning without affecting feeding behavior or the ability of mice to discriminate between differently flavored diets, raclopride had the opposite effects, inhibiting feeding but leaving social learning unaffected. We showed that food odor, alone or in a social context, was insufficient to induce a food preference, proving the specifically social nature of this paradigm. The estrous cycle also affected social learning, with mice in proestrus expressing the socially acquired food preference longer than estrous and diestrous mice. This suggests gonadal hormone involvement, which is consistent with known estrogenic regulation of female social behavior and estrogen receptor involvement in social learning. Furthermore, a detailed ethological analysis of the social interactions during which social learning occurs showed raclopride- and estrous phase-induced changes in agonistic behavior, which were not directly related to effects on social learning. Overall, these results suggest a differential involvement of the D1-type and D2-type receptors in the regulation of social learning, feeding, and agonistic behaviors that are likely mediated by different underlying states.

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