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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Domestication and the role of social play on the development of socio-cognitive skills in rats

  • Author(s): Pellis, Sergio M
  • Pellis, Vivien C
  • Himmler, Brett T
  • Modlińska, Klaudia
  • Stryjek, Rafał
  • Kolb, Bryan
  • Pisula, Wojciech
  • et al.
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License

Several studies on rats and hamsters, across multiple laboratories, have shown that limiting play in the juvenile period leads to adults that have physiological and anatomical changes in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and reduced socio-cognitive skills. Peers raised with playful peers have better socio-cognitive skills than animals raised with adult partners. Using Long Evans hooded rats - a commonly used domesticated strain - this relationship has been replicated multiple times. However, when the same paradigm was used with laboratory-reared wild rats, no differences were found between rats reared with peers and ones reared with adults. It has been shown that the key play-generated experiences involved are those related to actively wrestling with a partner and turn taking (as measured by role reversals), which give both partners opportunity to gain the advantage during play fighting. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that wild rat adults provide juveniles more such experiences than do adult Long Evans rats. The asymmetry in the play interactions in adult-juveniles pairs was compared between the two strains. As predicted, wild rat adults initiated more play with the juveniles, wrestled more and provided more opportunities for role reversals. The findings thus support the hypotheses for the observed strain differences in the effects of rearing condition on the mPFC.

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