In this study, we aimed to develop a behavioral task that measures pro-social decision making in rats. A fully automated, operant pro-social two-choice task is introduced that quantifies pro-social preferences for a mutual food reward in a set-up with tightly controlled task contingencies. Pairs of same-sex adult Wistar rats were placed in an operant chamber divided into two compartments (one rat per compartment), separated by a transparent barrier with holes that allowed the rats to see, hear, smell, but not touch each other. Test rats could earn a sucrose pellet either for themselves (own reward) or for themselves and the partner (both reward) by means of lever pressing. On average, male rats showed a 60 % preference for the lever that yielded a food reward for both themselves and their partner. In contrast, females did not show lever preference, regardless of the estrous cycle phase. Next, the impact of juvenile environmental factors on male rat social decision making was studied. Males were group-housed from postnatal day 26 onwards in complex housing Marlau™ cages that provided social and physical enrichment and stimulation in the form of novelty. Complex housed males did not show a preference for the pro-social lever.

Complex housing, Food reward, Pro-social decision making, Rats, Social development, Two-choice operant task,
Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience
Department of Psychology

Kentrop, J. (Jiska), Kalamari, A. (Aikaterini), Danesi, C.H. (Chiara Hinna), Kentrop, J.J. (John J.), van IJzendoorn, M.H, Bakermans-Kranenburg, M.J, … van der Veen, R. (Rixt). (2020). Pro-social preference in an automated operant two-choice reward task under different housing conditions: Exploratory studies on pro-social decision making. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 45. doi:10.1016/j.dcn.2020.100827