Deficient social and play behavior in juvenile and adult rats after neonatal cortical lesion: effects of chronic pubertal cannabinoid treatment

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2005 May;30(5):944-57. doi: 10.1038/sj.npp.1300634.


The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of neonatal excitotoxic lesions of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) on social play, social behavior unrelated to play, and self-grooming in juvenile and adult rats. We additionally examined the behavioral effects of chronic pubertal treatment with the cannabinoid agonist WIN 55,212-2 (WIN) in order to test the hypothesis that early lesions render the brain vulnerable to cannabinoid intake in later life. Neonatal mPFC lesions and pubertal WIN treatment disrupted social play, social behavior, and self-grooming in juvenile and adult rats. Additionally, we observed more social play behaviors during light cycle in WIN-treated than in vehicle-treated rats. Notably, the combination of surgery and WIN treatment disrupted social behavior in lesioned and sham-lesioned rats. The present data indicate that the mPFC is important for adequate juvenile response selection in the context of social play and might be involved in the development of adult social and nonsocial behavior. Moreover, our data add further evidence for an involvement of the cannabinoid system in anxiety and social behavior. Additive effects of neonatal surgery-induced stress or cortical lesions in combination with pubertal cannabinoid administration are also shown. The disturbances of social and nonsocial behavior in rats are comparable to symptoms of early frontal cortex damage, as well as neurodevelopmental disorders in humans, such as schizophrenia and autism. Therefore, we propose the combination of neonatal cortical lesions with chronic cannabinoid administration during puberty as an animal model for studying neuronal mechanisms of impaired social functioning in neuropsychiatric disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / psychology*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn / physiology*
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / injuries*
  • Conditioning, Operant / drug effects
  • Female
  • Grooming
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Play and Playthings / psychology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / injuries
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sexual Maturation
  • Social Behavior*


  • Cannabinoids