Play is indispensable for an adequate development of coping with social challenges in the rat

Dev Psychobiol. 1999 Mar;34(2):129-38.


In this study, young rats were deprived of early social interactions during weeks 4 and 5 of life. Different behavioral tests were conducted in adulthood to study the behavioral responses of rats lacking early social experiences. Juvenile deprivation resulted in decreased social activity and an altered sexual pattern, but did not affect locomotor activity or the performance in the elevated plus maze. Furthermore, behavioral and neuroendocrine responses of juvenile isolated rats were dramatically altered when they were confronted with territorial aggression. Juvenile deprived rats did not readily display a submissive posture in response to the resident and showed no immobility behavior after being returned to the resident's territory, while their plasma corticosterone and adrenaline concentrations were significantly increased compared to nonisolated controls. In contrast, behavioral responses in the shock prod test were not affected by previous isolation. The results suggest that early social experiences are vital for interactions with conspecifics later in life, i.e., aggression, sexual, and social interactions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Catecholamines / blood
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / physiology
  • Play and Playthings / psychology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Isolation / psychology*
  • Territoriality


  • Catecholamines
  • Corticosterone