Social interactions have been shown to be rewarding for adolescent and adult rats; however, there has been little emphasis on comparing the strength of the rewarding value of social stimuli across ontogeny. Since age differences in social interactions may vary with sex or housing circumstances, the present study assessed social conditioned place preference (CPP) in adolescent and adult male and female Sprague-Dawley rats housed either socially or in isolation and conditioned with either group-housed or isolate-housed partners. Isolated animals of both sexes and ages demonstrated social CPP, with the strongest preference emerging in adolescent males. Social CPP was not evident in group-housed adults whereas group-housed adolescents developed a preference for the compartment previously paired with similarly housed partners; however, when socially housed adolescents were conditioned with isolated partners, social CPP did not emerge. Age differences in social CPP may reflect age-related neural alterations in brain systems implicated in regulation of social behavior.
(c) 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.