Adolescence is a period of significant behavioral and physiological maturation, particularly related to stress responses. Animal studies that have tested the influence of adolescent social experiences on stress-related behavioral and physiological development have led to complex results. We used a rodent model of neophobia to test the hypothesis that the influence of adolescent social experience on adult behavior and adrenocortical function is modulated by pre-adolescent temperament. Exploratory activity was assessed in 53 male Sprague-Dawley rats to classify temperament and then they were housed in one of the three conditions during postnatal days (PND) 28-46: (1) with familiar kin, (2) with novel social partners, or (3) individually with no social partners. Effects on adult adrenocortical function were evaluated from fecal samples collected while rats were individually-housed and exposed to a 1-hour novel social challenge during PND 110-114. Adolescent-housing with novel or no social partners led to reduced adult glucocorticoid production compared to adolescent-housing with familiar littermates. Additionally, highly-exploratory pre-weanling rats that were housed with novel social partners during adolescence exhibited increased exploratory behavior and a more rapid return to basal glucocorticoid production in adulthood compared to those housed with familiar or no social partners during adolescence and compared to low-exploratory rats exposed to novel social partners. In sum, relatively short-term adolescent social experiences can cause transient changes in temperament and potentially longer-term changes in recovery of glucocorticoid production in response to adult social challenges. Furthermore, early temperament may modulate the influence of adolescent experiences on adult behavioral and adrenocortical function.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Behavioral Neuroscience