The effects of stress on play and home cage behaviors in adolescent male rats

Dev Psychobiol. 2010 Jan;52(1):62-70. doi: 10.1002/dev.20413.


One prominent feature of adolescence is the high frequency of social behaviors, such as play. Engaging in these behaviors appears necessary for proper socio-emotional development as social isolation during adolescence typically leads to behavioral dysfunctions in adulthood. The present experiments examined the effects of stress on social and nonsocial behaviors in group housed adolescent male rats. We found that acute restraint stress led to a complete inhibition of play (e.g., nape contacts and pins) and reduced social investigations in pre- (28 days), mid- (35 days), and late-adolescent (42 and 49 days) animals. A follow-up study, however, found that restraint-induced suppression of play and social investigations was transient such that experimental animals engage in these behaviors at levels similar to those of controls 1 hr after termination of the stressor. We also found that exposure to repeated restraint stress throughout adolescence led to a decrease in social investigations, while leaving play largely unaffected. Interestingly, in all of the experiments, nonsocial behaviors (e.g., eating, drinking, grooming) were unaffected by restraint, suggesting these effects of stress are specific to social behaviors. Together, these data indicate that both acute and repeated stress significantly affect social behaviors during adolescence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Male
  • Play and Playthings*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Restraint, Physical / psychology
  • Sexual Maturation*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Environment*
  • Socialization
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*