Post-weaning social isolation of rats leads to an abnormal gait


  • *Current address: MRC Centre for Synaptic Plasticity, Department of Anatomy, School of Medical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1TD, UK.


The purpose of this study was to further characterize the phenotype of rats that have experienced prolonged postweaning social isolation, a paradigm that produces changes relevant to neuropsychiatric disorders. At weaning, male Wistar rats from three litters were housed socially (n = 12) or in isolation (n = 13) for 10 weeks. Isolated rats could see, hear and smell other rats. A sophisticated analysis of gait revealed that the stride duration was increased in isolates (12%, P = 0.0024) as a result of increased stance duration (18%, P = 0.0005), but there was no difference in vertical reaction force or velocity. Adrenal glands were heavier in isolates (19%, P = 0.0047). There was no difference in cross-sectional area of the brain or lateral ventricles anywhere along the anterior–posterior axis. All experiments and analysis were performed blind to housing condition. This is the first study to demonstrate that socially isolated rats have an abnormal gait. Further analysis, including pharmacological manipulation, is needed in order to understand the nature of the abnormality.