Eraslan, E., Castelhano-Carlos, M. J., Amorim, L. et al. 2023. Home-cage behavior is impacted by stress exposure in rats. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 17, 1195011.
Being social animals, rats exhibit a range of social behaviors that help them build social bonds and maintain group cohesion. Behavior is influenced by multiple factors, including stress exposure, and the expression of the impact of stress on both social and non-social behaviors may also be affected by the living conditions of rats. In this study, we explored the physiological and behavioral effects of chronic unpredictable stress on group-housed rats in the PhenoWorld (PhW), a socially and physically enriched environment closer to real-life conditions. Two independent experiments were performed: one in the control condition (PhW control, n = 8) and one in the stress condition (PhW stress, n = 8). Control animals remained undisturbed except for cage cleaning and daily handling procedures. Stress group animals were all exposed to chronic unpredictable stress. Data confirm that stress exposure triggers anxiety-like behavior in the PhW. In terms of home-cage behaviors, we found that stress affects social behaviors (by decreased playing and increased huddling behaviors) and non-social behaviors (as shown by the decrease in rearing and walking behaviors). These results are of relevance to expand our knowledge on the influence of stress on social and non-social behaviors, which are of importance to understand better species-typical behaviors.