The present study determined the effect of the housing condition experienced by old adult male rats on the appearance and number of dendritic spines. Specifically, 20‐month‐old rats were killed following 6 months of living in either a social environment (three to a cage) or living alone. The total number of dendritic spines per unit length was examined along segments of oblique, basal, and apical dendritic branches of pyramidal cells from layers II, III, Va, and Vb of the visual cortex. In addition to determining the total spine number, the spines were differentiated into two topographical categories: those with a lollipop configuration (type L) and those with a nubbin configuration (type N). Out results show that neither the total spine density nor the type L spine density were generally influenced by the two housing conditions. However, the density of type N spines was almost always greater on neurons from rats which had been living alone irrespective of the cortical layer or the dendritic segment counted. Some differences in total spine density and type L spine density were noted when neurons from the same environment but different cortical layers were compared, and these findings are discussed. However, the major focus of this paper was to extend our previous report of a selective increase in type N spines with age. We now show that in addition to increasing with age, type N spine density is also selectively increased by the condition of social deprivation.
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