Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract To clarify the influence of opioids on social play, the effects of morphine on playful and non-playful social behavior in juvenile rats was investigated under different conditions. Environmental variables employed were different (dim and intense) levels of illumination during testing, familiarity to the test cage, and different periods of social isolation prior to testing. Under dim light conditions, morphine markedly increased playful social behavior, such as pinning, boxing/wrestling and following/chasing, whereas non-playful social behavior such as social exploration and contact behavior was hardly affected. This effect of morphine was independent of duration of previous isolation and dose-dependent, with a maximal effect at 1.0 mg/kg. The mechanism of this effect is interpreted as an action on the rewarding aspects of play. A dose of 0.1 mg/kg of morphine abolished the initial suppression of play induced by unfamiliarity to the test cage, without influencing total levels of play. This may be an effect of morphine on the integration of sensory stimuli. Under intense light conditions, where playful behavior was completely suppressed, morphine itself hardly affected such behavior, but decreased some aspects of non-playful social behavior. These results suggest that in juvenile rats playful and non-playful forms of social behavior are differentially regulated. In addition, opioid systems may be involved at different levels in the regulation of social play.
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