Social Isolation Model

The post-weaning social isolation of rats produces a model that exhibits behavioral abnormalities with some potential relevance to schizophrenia, including hyperactivity in response to novelty and amphetamine, disruption in PPI, and decreased social interactions. These abnormal behaviors are at least partially responsive to atypical antipsychotics.50

Social isolation is known to produce a variety of alterations in biochemical, electrophysiological, and anatomical measures. For example, stimulation of the ventral tegmental area in rats subjected to post-weaning social isolation produces typical evoked plateau depolarizations in prefrontal cortex that is accompanied by an abnormal firing or a short hyperpolarization that is not observed in control animals.51 This suggests that social isolation may alter mesocortical dopaminergic modulation of the prefrontal cortex.

While social isolation produces an interesting behavioral model with some face validity, there are clear issues regarding construct validity. Since many of the systems disrupted by social isolation appear to be similar to changes observed in schizophrenic patients, this model may provide a fruitful path for basic research into potential developmental mechanisms of schizophrenia. However the incomplete response to atypical antipsychotics suggests that results from this model should be interpreted with caution.

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