Social exclusion intensifies anxiety-like behavior in adolescent rats

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Social connection reduces the physiological reactivity to stressors, while social exclusion causes emotional distress. Stressful experiences in rats result in the facilitation of aversive memory and induction of anxiety. To determine the effect of social interaction, such as social connection, social exclusion and equality or inequality, on emotional change in adolescent distressed rats, the emotional alteration induced by restraint stress in individual rats following exposure to various social interaction circumstances was examined. Rats were assigned to one of the following groups: all freely moving rats, all rats restrained, rats restrained in the presence of freely moving rats and freely moving rats with a restrained rat. No significant difference in fear-memory and sucrose consumption between all groups was found. Change in body weight significantly increased in freely moving rats with a restrained rat, suggesting that those rats seems to share the stressful experience of the restrained rat. Interestingly, examination of the anxiety-like behavior revealed only rats restrained in the presence of freely moving rats to have a significant increase, suggesting that emotional distress intensifies in positions of social exclusion. These results demonstrate that unequally excluded social interaction circumstances could cause the amplification of distressed status and anxiety-related emotional alteration.

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