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Experimental gerontology

A working model for the assessment of disruptions in social behavior among aged rats: The role of sex differences, social recognition, and sensorimotor processes.


PMID 26811912

Abstract

Aging results in a natural decline in social behavior, yet little is known about the processes underlying these changes. Engaging in positive social interaction is associated with many health benefits, including reduced stress reactivity, and may serve as a potential buffer against adverse consequences of aging. The goal of these studies was to establish a tractable model for the assessment of social behavior deficits associated with late aging. Thus, in Exp. 1, 1.5-, 3-, and 18-month-old male Fischer 344 (F344) rats were assessed for object investigation, and social interaction with a same-aged partner (novel/familiar), or a different-aged partner, thereby establishing working parameters for studies that followed. Results revealed that 18-month-old males exhibited reductions in social investigation and social contact behavior, with this age-related decline not influenced by familiarity or age of the social partner. Subsequently, Exp. 2 extended assessment of social behavior to both male and female F344 rats at multiple ages (3, 9, 18, and 24 months), after which a series of sensorimotor performance tests were conducted. In this study, both males and females exhibited late aging-related reductions in social interactions, but these changes were more pronounced in females. Additionally, sensorimotor performance was shown to be impaired in 24-month-olds, but not 18-month-olds, with this deficit more evident in males. Finally, Exp. 3 examined whether aging-related inflammation could account for declines in social behavior during late aging by administering naproxen (0, 7, 14, and 28 mg/kg; s.c.)-a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug-to 18-month-old females. Results from this study revealed that social behavior was unaffected by acute or repeated (6 days) naproxen, suggesting that aging-related social deficits in females may not be a consequence of a general aging-related inflammation and/or malaise. Together, these findings demonstrate that aging-related declines in social behavior are (i) specific to social stimuli and (ii) not indicative of a general state of aging-related debilitation. Thus, these findings establish working parameters for a highly tractable model in which the neural and hormonal mechanisms underlying aging-related declines in social behavior can be examined.

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