Effects of social rearing conditions on conditioned suppression in rats
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Twenty-two rats were reared in standard conditions during the first two months of their life. Then the animals were divided into two groups exposed to different rearing conditions. Twelve animals (Group SO) were housed socially, six animals per cage, and for three weeks they were subjected to sensory stimulation in an enriched environment. The other ten subjects were kept individually (Group IN); one rat per mesh cage, in conditions of relatively impoverished sensory stimulation. In both groups the training of the conditioned emotional response (CER) was performed when animals were three months old. In contrast to IN subjects, the rats subjected to permanent social contacts and reared in the enriched environment (Group SO) revealed almost equally low instrumental response rates in trials with the conditioned stimulus (CS) paired with nociceptive foot-shock (US), and in periods when no CS and/or US were applied. The results suggested that early exposure to an enriched environment caused a later decrease of the animals? capability to differentiate between the aversive CS and cues of the experimental context. This cognitive impairment was probably a secondary effect of fear generalized to the entire experimental situation.
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G. Walasek, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, 3 Pasteur St., 02-093 Warsaw, Poland