, Volume 152, Issue 3, pp 312-320
Date: 25 Aug 2000

Effects of noradrenaline depletion in the brain on response to novelty in isolation-reared rats

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Rationale: Social isolation from weaning in the rat produces a variety of neurochemical and behavioural effects in the adult that in part parallel changes seen in human schizophrenia. Objectives: The study investigated the effects of central noradrenaline (NA) depletion by the selective neurotoxin, N-(2-chloroethyl)-N-ethyl-2-bromobenzylamine (DSP-4), on the behaviour of isolation-reared rats. Methods: Male Lister hooded rats were reared singly or in groups after weaning. During week 2, the rats were tested in photocell activity cages and were then injected with DSP-4 (25 mg/kg, IP). During week 4, rats were tested in the open field under the following conditions: open field alone, with two novel stimuli (T1), and with a familiar and a novel object (T2), and in the activity cages. Results: DSP-4 significantly reduced cortical and hippocampal NA levels with no effect on the hypothalamus. Isolation-reared rats exhibited locomotor hyperactivity and reduced habituation to the testing arena, although their exploration of the novel objects in T1 was not significantly different from group-reared rats. DSP-4 treatment in group-reared rats increased inner zone activity in the open field but did not significantly affect the exploration of novel objects. DSP-4 treatment in isolates reduced exploration of objects at T2 while increasing exploration of the general environment. Conclusions: Isolation rearing influences the behavioural effects of central NA depletion. The results suggest isolation-induced changes in the central noradrenergic system in the isolated rat, supporting the view that early environmental factors can have long-term effects on central noradrenergic function as well as other neurotransmitter systems.