Development of social play in hamsters: Sex differences and their possible functions

In several rodent species social play appears to be necessary for proper deployment of species-specific patterns of aggressive and reproductive behavior. Specifically, in male Syrian hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus), play has been linked to the development of adult aggression. We quantified several types of social play behavior in same-sex peer groups of Syrian hamsters three times per week for three consecutive weeks after weaning, which included postnatal days 22-42 (PD22 to PD42). Male hamsters increased playful contact during PD36-PD42, whereas females showed peak playful contact during PD29-PD35. These findings suggest that the motivation for social play increases during mid-adolescence in males, but dissipates in females. To investigate the effects of social play deprivation, one hamster per litter remained pair-housed with its mother for three weeks after weaning its littermates. In adulthood, both play-deprived and play-exposed animals received acute social defeat stress followed by social interaction testing. Play deprivation led to increased defeat-induced social avoidance in both males and females. In males, play deprivation increased fighting back during social defeat stress, whereas in females it reduced aggressive behavior during conditioned defeat testing. We suggest that social play deprivation disrupts neural circuits regulating aggression in a sex-specific manner, perhaps related to sex differences in territorial defense, but has similar effects on neural circuits regulating stress responsivity. Overall, these findings suggest that juvenile social play functions to promote coping with stress and appropriate social behavior in adulthood. © 2019 Elsevier B.V.

In several rodent species social play appears to be necessary for proper deployment of species-specific patterns of aggressive and reproductive behavior. Specifically, in male Syrian hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus), play has been linked to the development of adult aggression. We quantified several types of social play behavior in same-sex peer groups of Syrian hamsters three times per week for three consecutive weeks after weaning, which included postnatal days 22-42 (PD22 to PD42). Male hamsters increased playful contact during PD36-PD42, whereas females showed peak playful contact during PD29-PD35. These findings suggest that the motivation for social play increases during mid-adolescence in males, but dissipates in females. To investigate the effects of social play deprivation, one hamster per litter remained pair-housed with its mother for three weeks after weaning its littermates. In adulthood, both play-deprived and play-exposed animals received acute social defeat stress followed by social interaction testing. Play deprivation led to increased defeat-induced social avoidance in both males and females. In males, play deprivation increased fighting back during social defeat stress, whereas in females it reduced aggressive behavior during conditioned defeat testing. We suggest that social play deprivation disrupts neural circuits regulating aggression in a sex-specific manner, perhaps related to sex differences in territorial defense, but has similar effects on neural circuits regulating stress responsivity. Overall, these findings suggest that juvenile social play functions to promote coping with stress and appropriate social behavior in adulthood. © 2019 Elsevier B.V.

Search