Why rats prefer company of the young and stressed

October 10, 2019

Researchers have identified a neural pathway implicated in social interaction between adult and juvenile animals, according to new research in rats published in JNeurosci.

Adult rats have been shown to prefer the company of stressed-out juveniles. This preference could be mediated by connections between the insular cortex, an area that integrates emotional and sensory information, and the nucleus accumbens, an area involved in determining reward.

Rogers-Carter et al. manipulated this pathway in adult rats to see how it affected their interactions with stressed and relaxed rats of various ages. When the insular cortex was inhibited, the rats lost their preference for stressed juvenile rats, but their avoidance of the stressed adults persisted. The researchers believe that young, stressed animals trigger parental instincts, whereas a stressed adult might be a sign of danger. This parallels the increased empathy humans have towards children over their peers.
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Manuscript title: Insular cortex projections to nucleus accumbens core mediate social approach to stressed juvenile rats*

*A preprint of this manuscript has been posted on bioRxiv: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/544221v2.full

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About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

Society for Neuroscience

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