Chronic stress exposure may have negative consequences for health. One of the most common sources of chronic stress is stress associated with social interaction. In rodents, the effects of social stress can be studied in a naturalistic way using the visual burrow system (VBS). The way an individual copes with stress, their “stress coping style”, may influence the consequences of social stress. In the current study we tested the hypothesis that stress coping style may modulate social status and influence the consequences of having a lower social status. We formed 7 VBS colonies, with 1 proactive coping male, 1 passive coping male, and 4 female rats per colony to assess whether a rat's coping style prior to colony formation could predict whether that individual is more likely to become socially dominant. The rats remained in their respective colonies for 14 days and the physiological and behavioral consequences of social stress were assessed. Our study shows that stress coping style does not predict social status. However, stress coping style may influence the consequences of having a lower social status. Subordinate passive and proactive rats had distinctly different wound patterns; proactive rats had more wounds on the front of their bodies. Behavioral analysis confirmed that proactive subordinate rats engaged in more offensive interactions. Furthermore, subordinate rats with a proactive stress coping style had larger adrenals, and increased stress responsivity to a novel acute stressor (restraint stress) compared to passive subordinate rats or dominant rats, suggesting that the allostatic load may have been larger in this group.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Behavioral Neuroscience