- Within-litter variation in maternal care received by individual pups correlates with adolescent social play behavior in male rats
- Physiology & behavior
- Volume | Issue number
- 106 | 5
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences (SILS)
Maternal care represents an essential environmental factor during the first post-natal week(s) of rodents and is known to have lasting consequences for neuronal structure, brain function as well as behavioral outcome later in life, including social functions and reward-related processes. Previous experiments have shown that the amount of maternal care received by individual pups varies substantially, even within one litter. During adolescence, mammals display high levels of social play behavior, a rewarding form of social interaction that is of great importance for social and cognitive development. In order to investigate how maternal care influences adaptive social behavior later in life, we here examined whether individual differences in maternal licking and grooming (%LG) received during the first postnatal week affect social play behavior during adolescence. We observed that %LG received by male rats early in life correlates positively with the frequency and duration of pouncing and pinning, the two most characteristic behavioral expressions of social play behavior in rats. The latency to engage in social exploration also correlated with %LG. In female rats we observed no correlation between %LG and any social parameter. The data indicate that subtle variations in maternal care received early in life influence social interactions in male adolescent rats. These changes in social play likely have repercussions for the social development of male rats, suggesting that maternal care can have both direct and indirect effects on the behavioral development of the offspring.
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