Discipline: Biological Sciences
Subcategory: Social Sciences/Psychology/Economics
Catherine E. Ubri - City University of New York - Hunter College
Co-Author(s): Stephen H. Braren, New York University, New York, NY; Rosemarie E. Perry, New York University, New York, NY; Gabriella Pollonini, New York University, New York, NY; Cristina M. Alberini, New York University, New York, NY; C. Cybele Raver New York University, New York, NY; Regina M. Sullivan, New York University, New York, NY; Clancy Blair, New York University, New York, NY
It is well-established that early-life stress is associated with disrupted social development. Current interventions for at-risk children target the improvement of caregiver-child relationships to optimize the context in which a child’s social learning occurs. However, there is a lack of research assessing the ability of peer-to-peer relationships to influence social development following adversity. Using a rodent model, the present study investigated whether peers influence social development following exposure to early-life stress at both behavioral and neurobiological levels. First, we hypothesized that an early-life environment of resource rearing would negatively impact social motivation behavior and stress physiology in peri-adolescent rats. Second, we hypothesized that following a 2-week intervention in which scarcity-reared rats were pair-housed with a control rat, scarcity-reared rats would show restored social motivation behavior.
Subjects were randomly assigned to control or early-life stress conditions of resource scarcity (insufficient wood shavings) from postnatal days (PN) 8-12. At weaning, rats were randomly assigned to matched (two animals from same rearing condition) or mismatched peer housing conditions (one early-life stress, one control animal). At PN37-47 social behavior was assessed in a test of social motivation and glucocorticoid receptor (GR) levels were quantified in the mPFC and dHC. Results showed that early-life stress reduced social motivation behavior, which correlated with heightened GR levels in the dHC and mPFC. However, the co-housing of early-life stress and control rats repaired social motivation levels of the early-life stress cage-mate, without affecting the social development of the control reared cage-mate. Our results provide a novel manipulation of peer relationships that supports the remediation of altered social behavior following early-life stress. These findings have implications for peer interventions in providing social skill resiliency and regulation of stress physiology among peri-adolescent children who have experienced conditions of early-life adversity.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): The research presented here was supported by NIH Grants DC009910, DC003906, MH091451, HD083217, and P01 HD039667-01A1.
Faculty Advisor: Stephen Braren, firstname.lastname@example.org
Role: Created the codebook to quantify behavioral observations, coded multiple hours of animal behavior video (approximately 50 hours, 63 videos), assayed corticosterone from rats, partially analyzed behavioral data