Original article from researchers at School of Psychology, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia published online at nature.comMastrogiovanni, N.A., Wheeler, A.K. & Clemens, K.J.
Social isolation enhances cued-reinstatement of sucrose and nicotine seeking, but this is reversed by a return to social housing.
Sci Rep 11, 2422 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-81966-2
Physical or perceived (i.e. loneliness) social isolation is increasing in Western cultures. Unfortunately, social isolation is associated with a range of negative physical and mental health outcomes, including increased incidence of obesity and smoking. Here we monitored the impact of social isolation on a range of physical measures, and then tested whether social isolation in adult rats changes how reward-related stimuli motivate sucrose- or nicotine-seeking. Socially isolated rats showed elevated baseline CORT, gained significantly less weight across the study, were more active in response to a novel or familiar environment. Isolated rats also acquired nose-poking for a food pellet more rapidly, and showed increased susceptibility to cue-, but not reward-induced reinstatement. Notably, these effects are partially mitigated by a return to group housing, suggesting that they are not necessarily permanent, and that a return to a social setting can quickly reverse any deficits or changes associated with social isolation. This study advances our understanding of altered reward-processing in socially isolated individuals and reiterates the importance of socialisation in the treatment of disorders such as overeating and addiction.