The effect of depressive-like behavior and antidepressant therapy on social behavior and hierarchy in rats

Matthew Boyko, Ruslan Kutz, Julia Grinshpun, Vladislav Zvenigorodsky, Benjamin F. Gruenbaum, Shaun E. Gruenbaum, Amit Frenkel, Evgeni Brotfain, Melamed Israel Melamed, Dmitry Frank, Vladimir Zeldetz, Alexander Zlotnik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: Depression is common and results in a significant morbidity and economic burden. Depression is associated with pervasive impairments in social functioning, and antidepressant treatments are highly variable in improving these impairments. The objectives of this study were to test the effects of depression on social organization and behavior in a rodent model of depression, and to study the effectiveness of antidepressant medication in improving both symptoms of depression and the social function of depressed animals. Methods: One hundred-twenty male Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly and equally divided between the control group and depression group. After induction of depression by 5 weeks of chronic unpredictable stress, rats received either antidepressant treatment or placebo. In parallel with the initiation of drug therapy, 20 social groups of six rats were subjected to the complex diving-for-food situation to evaluate their social functioning. Four behavioral tests evaluated symptoms of depression and anxiety at 3 different time points. Results: We found that 1) depressed rats were significantly more active and aggressive in all parameters of social organization test compared with the control and antidepressant treatment groups, 2) depressed rats that received antidepressant treatment exhibited social behaviors like the control group, and 3) depression in the experimental groups was not accompanied by symptoms of anxiety. Conclusions: These results suggest that depression can significantly alter the social behavior and hierarchy in the social group in rats. Investigations of complex social group dynamics offer novel opportunities for translational studies of mood and psychiatric disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111953
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
StatePublished - 16 Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Behavior
  • Depression
  • Social dynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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