Social Transmission of Avoidance Behavior under Situational Change in Learned and Unlearned Rats
AbstractBackground: Rats receive information from other conspecifics by observation or other types of social interaction. Such social interaction may contribute to the effective adaptation to changes of environment such as situational switching. Learning to avoid dangerous places or objects rapidly occurs with even a single conditioning session, and the conditioned memory tends to be sustained over long periods. The avoidance is important for adaptation, but the details of the conditions under which the social transmission of avoidance is formed are unknown. We demonstrate that the previous experience of avoidance learning is important for the formation of behaviors for social transmission of avoidance and that the experienced rats adapt to a change of situation determined by the presence or absence of aversive stimuli. We systematically investigated social influence on avoidance behavior using a passive avoidance test in a light/dark two-compartment apparatus.
Methodology/Principal Findings: Rats were divided into two groups, one receiving foot shocks and another with no aversive experience in a dark compartment. Experienced and inexperienced rats were further divided into subjects and partners. In Experiment 1, each subject experienced (1) interaction with an experienced partner, (2) interaction with an inexperienced partner, or (3) no interaction. In Experiment 2, each subject experienced interaction with a partner that received a shock. The entering latency to a light compartment was measured. The avoidance behavior of experienced rats was inhibited by interaction with inexperienced or experienced partners in a safely-changed situation. The avoidance of experienced rats was reinstated in a dangerously-changed situation by interaction with shocked rats. In contrast, the inexperienced rats were not affected by any social circumstances.
Conclusions/Significance: These results suggest that transmitted information among rats can be updated under a situational change and that the previous experience is crucial for social enhancement and inhibition of avoidance behavior in rats.
CitationPLoS One. 2009 Aug 27; 4(8):e6794
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