Complete maternal deprivation affects social, but not spatial, learning in adult rats
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The effects of maternal deprivation on learning of social and spatial tasks were investigated in female adult rats. Pups were reared artificially and received "lickinglike" tactile stimulation (AR animals) or were reared with their mothers (MR animals). In adulthood, subjects were tested on paradigms of spatial learning and on paradigms involving learning of social cues. Results showed that maternal deprivation did not affect performance on spatial learning, but it did impair performance on the three social learning tasks. The AR animals made no distinction between a new and a previously presented juvenile conspecific. AR animals also responded less rapidly than MR animals at test for maternal behavior 2 weeks after a postpartum experience with pups. Finally, AR animals did not develop a preference for a food previously eaten by a familiar conspecific whereas MR animals did. This study indicates that animals reared without mother and siblings show no deficits in spatial tasks while showing consistent deficits in learning involving social interactions.
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