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PLoS One. 2018 Oct 2;13(10):e0200971. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0200971. eCollection 2018.

Familiarity modulates social approach toward stressed conspecifics in female rats.

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Psychology Department, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, United States of America.


Familiarity between conspecifics may influence how social affective cues shape social behaviors. In a social affective preference test, experimental rats, when given the choice to explore an unfamiliar stressed or a naive adult, will avoid interaction with a stressed conspecific. To determine if familiarity would influence social interactions with stressed conspecifics, male and female test rats underwent 2 social affective preference tests in isosexual triads where an experimental rat was presented with a naïve and a stressed target conspecific who were either familiar (cagemate) or unfamiliar. Male and female experimental rats avoided stressed unfamiliar conspecifics. However, experimental female rats demonstrated a preference to interact with their stressed, familiar cagemates. Male and female rats exhibited more self-grooming and immobility behavior in the presence of stressed conspecifics, which may indicate emotion contagion. These findings suggest a sex-specific role of familiarity in social approach and avoidance, and warrant further mechanistic exploration.

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