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Behav Brain Res. 1996 Feb;75(1-2):27-32.

Social isolation increases aggressive behaviour and alters the effects of diazepam in the rat social interaction test.

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Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Nottingham Medical School, Queen's Medical Center, UK.


Isolation rearing in the early stages of life has been shown to modify a variety of behaviours in many animals and the responsitivity to psychotropic drugs. The aims of the present study were to investigate the effects of isolation rearing on anxiety using the social interaction paradigm and to compare the effects of diazepam on social interaction behaviours in isolation and socially reared rats. Male Lister hooded rats were reared from weaning either alone (isolation reared) or in groups of four (socially reared) for 6 weeks and then were tested for social interaction. Both isolation and socially reared rats were exposed to the social interaction test either without drug treatment or following saline or diazepam (1 and 2.5 mg/kg, i.p., 30 min before testing). The results demonstrate that under high light in an unfamiliar arena, the isolation compared to the socially reared rats showed a significantly (P < 0.01) higher level of social interaction, manifested as increases in aggressive and avoidance behaviours, and that this interaction occur for a greater length of time during the test period (10 min). However, when the light level was decreased or when the arena was familiar, active social interaction of isolation reared rats decreased but increased in the socially reared rats. In both conditions the isolation reared rats displayed more aggressive behaviours, in particular biting and boxing the partners which did not occur with the socially reared rats. Pretreatment of diazepam (1 and 2.5 mg/kg., i.p.) caused a dose-related reduction in aggressive behaviours in rats reared under both conditions but increased passive interactions in the socially reared rats. In contrast diazepam (2.5 mg/kg) reduced active interaction in the isolation reared rats but had no effect on passive interaction. These results indicate that isolation rearing increases aggressive behaviours and alters the effects of diazepam.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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