Presenter Information

Stephen F. CookeFollow

Presentation Type

Poster

Faculty Mentor’s Full Name

Nathan Insel

Faculty Mentor’s Department

Psychology

Abstract

The brains of social animals are adapted to form new relationships. Studying this has been difficult because we lack measures for relationship learning. To address this, we studied pairs of stranger degus, a rodent native to Chile, to see how their behaviors changed while learning about each other. Degus are a highly social animal making them a valuable research model. In this experiment we monitored behavior in same sex dyads of degus (male and female) to identify interaction patterns as they learn about one-another. Degus were separated for 24 hours prior to 20 minute pairing sessions. Dyads were paired 5 times with strangers and 5 times with cagemates over 20-30 days. After this, the degus were paired with a different stranger for 1-3 sessions to control for non-specific behavioral changes over time. Sessions were then coded for agonistic, investigative, and affiliative interactions. Preliminary data shows that stranger degus spend more time interacting than cagemates. The increased interactions in strangers were selective for certain types of behaviors, particularly agonistic interactions. This may indicate that interaction promotes relationship learning; agonistic interaction specifically, may help “negotiate” new relationships. We also found that males interacted more with both strangers and cagemates than females. These may be predominantly agonistic interactions, suggesting a strong motivation in males to be aggressively competitive. Most stranger-cagemate differences did not change over 5 exposures, although 24 hour pairing with the stranger (in females) appeared to reduce agonistic interactions. This could imply that establishing “in group” relationships requires extended exposure periods. In males, rear-sniffing appeared to decrease over days, but this is true of both strangers and cagemates. These results support our hypothesis by confirming differences in degus’ interactions based on familiarity and offer a first step toward investigating plasticity of social memory systems in the brain.

Category

Physical Sciences

Share

COinS
 
Apr 17th, 3:00 PM Apr 17th, 4:00 PM

Familiarity affects interaction: social behavior differences in pairs of stranger and cagemate degus

UC South Ballroom

The brains of social animals are adapted to form new relationships. Studying this has been difficult because we lack measures for relationship learning. To address this, we studied pairs of stranger degus, a rodent native to Chile, to see how their behaviors changed while learning about each other. Degus are a highly social animal making them a valuable research model. In this experiment we monitored behavior in same sex dyads of degus (male and female) to identify interaction patterns as they learn about one-another. Degus were separated for 24 hours prior to 20 minute pairing sessions. Dyads were paired 5 times with strangers and 5 times with cagemates over 20-30 days. After this, the degus were paired with a different stranger for 1-3 sessions to control for non-specific behavioral changes over time. Sessions were then coded for agonistic, investigative, and affiliative interactions. Preliminary data shows that stranger degus spend more time interacting than cagemates. The increased interactions in strangers were selective for certain types of behaviors, particularly agonistic interactions. This may indicate that interaction promotes relationship learning; agonistic interaction specifically, may help “negotiate” new relationships. We also found that males interacted more with both strangers and cagemates than females. These may be predominantly agonistic interactions, suggesting a strong motivation in males to be aggressively competitive. Most stranger-cagemate differences did not change over 5 exposures, although 24 hour pairing with the stranger (in females) appeared to reduce agonistic interactions. This could imply that establishing “in group” relationships requires extended exposure periods. In males, rear-sniffing appeared to decrease over days, but this is true of both strangers and cagemates. These results support our hypothesis by confirming differences in degus’ interactions based on familiarity and offer a first step toward investigating plasticity of social memory systems in the brain.