Research on social instability has focused on its detrimental consequences, but most people are resilient and respond by invoking various coping strategies. To investigate cellular processes underlying such strategies, a dominance hierarchy of rats was formed and then destabilized. Regardless of social position, rats from disrupted hierarchies had fewer new neurons in the hippocampus compared with rats from control cages and those from stable hierarchies. Social disruption produced a preference for familiar over novel conspecifics, a change that did not involve global memory impairments or increased anxiety. Using the neuropeptide oxytocin as a tool to increase neurogenesis in the hippocampus of disrupted rats restored preference for novel conspecifics to predisruption levels. Conversely, reducing the number of new neurons by limited inhibition of adult neurogenesis in naive transgenic GFAP–thymidine kinase rats resulted in social behavior similar to disrupted rats. Together, these results provide novel mechanistic evidence that social disruption shapes behavior in a potentially adaptive way, possibly by reducing adult neurogenesis in the hippocampus.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Dominance hierarchy
- GFAP-TK transgenic rats
- Social behavior