Cavieres, G., Bozinovic, F., Bogdanovich, J. M. et al. 2023. Impact of prolonged chronic social isolation stress on behavior and multifractal complexity of metabolic rate in Octodon degus. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 17.

Social interaction can improve animal performance through the prevention of stress-related events, the provision of security, and the enhancement of reproductive output and survival. We investigated the effects of prolonged chronic social isolation stress on behavioral, cognitive, and physiological performance in the social, long-lived rodent Octodon degus. Degu pups were separated into two social stress treatments: control (CTRL) and chronically isolated (CI) individuals from post-natal and post-weaning until adulthood. We quantified anxiety-like behavior and cognitive performance with a battery of behavioral tests. Additionally, we measured their basal metabolic rate (BMR) and analyzed the multifractal properties of the oxygen consumption time series using Multifractal Detrended Fluctuation Analysis, a well-known method for assessing the fractal characteristics of biological signals. Our results showed that CI induced a significant increase in anxiety-like behaviors and led to a reduction in social and working memory in male degus. In addition, CI-treated degus reduced the multifractal complexity of BMR compared to CTRL, which implies a decrease in the ability to respond to environmental stressors and, as a result, an unhealthy state. In contrast, we did not observe significant effects of social stress on BMR. Multivariate analyses showed a clear separation of behavior and physiological variables into two clusters, corresponding to CI and CTRL degus. This study provides novel insights into the effects of prolonged chronic social isolation stress on behavior, cognitive performance, and metabolic complexity in this rodent animal model. To the best of our knowledge, it is the first study to integrate cognitive-behavioral performance and multifractal dynamics of a physiological signal in response to prolonged social isolation. These findings highlight the importance of social interactions for the well-being and overall performance of social animals.

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