Acta Vet. Brno 2022, 91: 391-400

Social housing promotes cognitive function and reduces anxiety and depressive-like behaviours in rats

Jaroslav Nádeníček1,2, Eva Voslářová2, Veronika Vojtkovská2, Zoran Todorović3, Vladimír Večerek2

1Masaryk University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Physiology, Brno, Czech Republic
2University of Veterinary Sciences Brno, Faculty of Veterinary Hygiene and Ecology, Department of Animal Protection and Welfare and Veterinary Public Health, Brno, Czech Republic
3University of Belgrade, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Pharmacology, Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology, Belgrade, Serbia

Received February 11, 2022
Accepted October 10, 2022

The aim of the study was to assess the impact of social isolation of rats in the post-weaning period using behavioural tests aimed at assessing cognitive function, anxiety, and depressive-like behaviours. The monitoring was performed in male Wistar rats which were housed after weaning either individually (n = 8) or in pairs (n = 8) for 33 days. In the open field, rats kept in isolation reared less often (P < 0.05) than pair-housed rats. In the elevated plus-maze test, pair-housed rats entered the open arm more frequently (P = 0.002) and stayed in the closed arm less often (P = 0.019) compared to rats housed in isolation. In the forced swim test, climbing was seen more frequently (P = 0.016) in pair-housed rats whereas immobility was more common (P = 0.006) in rats housed individually. In the novel object recognition test, the pair-housed rats preferred (P = 0.014) the novel object whereas there was no difference (P = 0.107) in time spent by exploring familiar and novel objects in rats housed in isolation. Furthermore, juvenile rats housed for 33 days in isolation showed higher (P = 0.003) body weight gain during the monitored period than rats housed for the same period in pairs. Our findings are important not only in terms of assessing the impact of rat housing on their mental and physical development but also in terms of the accurate interpretation of the results of other experiments where the rat is used as a model organism.


We would like to thank Prof. PharmDr. Petr Babula, Ph.D. for allowing access to the accredited facility where the study was conducted and Doc. PharmDr. Jana Rudá, Ph.D. for providing valuable advice and equipment for conducting behavioural tests.


50 live references