Early social deprivation induces disturbed social communication and violent aggression in adulthood

Behav Neurosci. 2008 Aug;122(4):849-54. doi: 10.1037/0735-7044.122.4.849.


Disturbed social relations during childhood (e.g., social neglect) often lead to aggression-related psychopathologies in adulthood. Social isolation also increased aggressiveness in laboratory animals. Here the authors show in rats, that social isolation from weaning not only increases the level of aggressiveness, but results in abnormal attack patterns and deficits in social communication. In socially deprived rats, the share of attacks aimed at vulnerable body parts of opponents (head, throat, and belly) dramatically increased and the attack/threat ratio was shifted toward attacks, suggesting a decrease in intention signaling. Moreover, a Multiple Regression Analysis showed that the nonassociation of attacks with offensive threats predicted the occurrence of vulnerable attacks with 81.1% accuracy. The authors suggest that the social deprivation-induced abnormal aggression models the aggression-related problems resulting from early social neglect in humans, and studies on its brain mechanisms may increase our understanding of the mechanisms underlying psychopathologies resulting from early social problems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agonistic Behavior / physiology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Social Isolation*