Long-term individual housing in C57BL/6J and DBA/2 mice: assessment of behavioral consequences

V Võikar, A Polus, E Vasar, H Rauvala
Genes, Brain, and Behavior 2005, 4 (4): 240-52
The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of individual housing on mouse behavior. The male mice of the C57BL/6J and DBA/2 strains were separated at the age of 4 weeks and kept in individual housing for 7 weeks until behavioral testing began. Their behavior was compared to the group-housed mice in a battery of tests during the following 7 weeks. The single-housed mice were hyperactive and displayed reduced habituation in the tests assessing activity and exploration. Reduced anxiety was established in the elevated plus-maze, but an opposite effect was observed in the dark-light (DL) and hyponeophagia tests. Immobility in the forced swimming test was reduced by social isolation. The DBA mice displayed higher anxiety-like behavior than the B6 mice in the plus-maze and DL exploration test, but hyponeophagia was reduced in the DBA mice. Moreover, all effects of individual housing on the exploratory and emotional behavior were more evident in the DBA than in the B6 mice. Novel object recognition and fear conditioning (FC) were significantly impaired in the single-housed mice, whereas water-maze (WM) learning was not affected. Marked strain differences were established in all three learning tests. The B6 mice performed better in the object recognition and FC tasks. Initial spatial learning in the WM was faster and memory retention slightly enhanced in the B6 mice. The DBA mice displayed lower preference to the new and enhanced preference to the old platform location than the B6 mice after reversal learning in the WM. We conclude that individual housing has strong strain- and test-specific effects on emotional behavior and impairs memory in certain tasks.

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