Investigation of social, affective, and locomotor behavior of adolescent Brattleboro rats reveals a link between vasopressin’s actions on arousal and social behavior

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Kelcie C. Schatz, Robert F. Kyne, Stephanie L. Parmeter, Matthew J. Paul
Hormones and Behavior
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Arginine vasopressin (AVP) has recently been implicated in juvenile and adolescent social development. How AVP influences social development, however, is not understood. Adolescent homozygous Brattleboro rats (Hom), which lack AVP due to a mutation in the Avp gene, exhibit fewer active social behaviors (e.g., social play) but more passive social behaviors (e.g., huddling) than their wild type and heterozygous (Het) littermates, raising the possibility that AVP impacts social development through an arousal mechanism. Here, we test whether the atypical social phenotype of adolescent Hom rats is associated with altered behavioral arousal, social approach, or affective behaviors and whether Brattleboro mothers impact these behavioral phenotypes. Male and female Het and Hom adolescents born to Het or Hom mothers were tested in social interaction, open field, novelty-seeking, social approach, and marble burying tests. As reported previously, Hom rats played less and emitted fewer 50 kHz ultrasonic vocalizations while huddling more than their Het littermates. No genotype differences were detected in novelty seeking or social approach, nor were consistent differences found between offspring from Het and Hom mothers. However, Hom rats were less active in the open field and buried fewer marbles than Het rats indicating a hypoaroused, low anxiety phenotype. Open field activity correlated with levels of social play indicating that the effects of the Brattleboro mutation on arousal and social behavior are linked. These data demonstrate that chronic AVP deficiency impacts behavioral arousal during adolescence and support the hypothesis that AVP influences adolescent social development, in part, through its regulation of arousal.


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