Third-party prosocial behavior in adult female rats is impaired after perinatal fluoxetine exposure
Rat dams received 10 mg/kg/d fluoxetine (FLX) or vehicle (CTR) via oral gavage from gestational day 1 until postnatal day 21. At adulthood, the rat offspring were housed in four cohorts of 4 females and 4 males in a seminatural environment. As prosocial behaviors are more prominent after stressful situations, we investigated the behavioral response of rats immediately after natural aggressive encounters (fights). Additionally, we studied whether a stressful white-noise exposure would alter this response to the aggressive encounters.
Our study indicates that CTR-female rats are able to show third party prosocial behavior in response to witnessing aggressive encounters between conspecifics in a seminatural environment. In addition, we showed that perinatal FLX exposure impairs the display of prosocial behavior in female rats. Moreover, we found no signs of prosocial behavior in CTR- and FLX-males after natural aggressive encounters. After white-noise exposure the effects in third party prosocial behavior of CTR-females ceased to exist. We conclude that female rats are able to show prosocial behavior, possibly in the form of consolation behavior. In addition, the negative effects of perinatal fluoxetine exposure on prosocial behavior could provide additional evidence that SSRI treatment during pregnancy could contribute to the risk for social impairments in the offspring.