Isolation rearing enhances the rate of acquisition of a discriminative approach task but does not affect the efficacy of a conditioned reward
Harmer CJ., Phillips GD.
Male Lister hooded rats were reared from weaning either alone (isolation reared) or in groups of five (socially reared controls). Experiments began at 18-weeks postweaning. Subjects were trained to associate an arbitrary stimulus with 10% sucrose reward. Trials (VT30sec) consisted of a 5-s light stimulus (houselight off, wall lights on), followed by a 5-s period of access to the sucrose reward. Alcove approach between trials delayed the next trial by the duration of approach plus 3 s. Activity not associated directly with approach behaviour was also recorded. Isolation rearing enhanced the rate of acquisition of the discriminative approach response. Acquisition of both conditioned approach behaviour during trials and conditioned avoidance between trials was more rapid in isolates. In general, effects were most evident early in training, with asymptotic performance least affected. Horizontal and vertical activity extraneous to approach behaviour was enhanced in isolates during the first training session and increased further relative to social controls after several training sessions. Subsequently, two novel levers were presented; a response on one lever resulted in a 0.5-s presentation of the conditioned stimulus (CS) (probability 0.5), whereas the second lever had no programmed consequences. Sucrose reward was not available at any time. Both groups of animals showed a preference for the CS-associated lever, although rates of response by isolates were higher than social controls on both levers. The proportion of responses emitted upon the active lever, by comparison with the total number of responses recorded upon both levers, was, however, unaffected by isolation rearing.