Interaction effect of social isolation and high dose corticosteroid on neurogenesis and emotional behavior

Jackie N.M. Chan, Jada C.D. Lee, Sylvia S.P. Lee, Katy K.Y. Hui, Alan H.L. Chan, Timothy K.H. Fung, Dalinda I. Sánchez-Vidaña, Benson W.M. Lau, Shirley P.C. Ngai

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Hypercortisolemia is one of the clinical features found in depressed patients. This clinical feature has been mimicked in animal studies via application of exogenous corticosterone (CORT). Previous studies suggested that CORT can induce behavioral disturbance in anxious-depressive like behavior, which is associated with suppressed neurogenesis. Hippocampal neurogenesis plays an important role in adult cognitive and behavioral regulation. Its suppression may thus lead to neuropsychiatric disorders. Similar to the effects of CORT on the animals’ depression-like behaviors and neurogenesis, social deprivation has been regarded as one factor that predicts poor prognosis in depression. Furthermore, social isolation is regarded as a stressor to social animals including experimental rodents. Hence, this study aims to examine if social isolation would induce further emotional or anxiety-like behavior disturbance and suppress neurogenesis in an experimental model that was repeatedly treated with CORT. Sprague-Dawley rats were used in this study to determine the effects of different housing conditions, either social isolated or group housing, in vehicle-treated control and CORT-treated animals. Forced swimming test (FST), open field test (OFT) and social interaction test (SIT) were used to assess depression-like, anxiety-like and social behaviors respectively. Immunohistochemistry was performed to quantify the number of proliferative cells and immature neurons in the hippocampus, while dendritic maturation of immature neurons was analyzed by Sholl analysis. Social isolation reduced latency to immobility in FST. Furthermore, social isolation could significantly reduce the ratio of doublecortin and bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) positive cells of the neurogenesis assay under CORT-treated condition. The current findings suggested that the behavioral and neurological effect of social isolation is dependent on the condition of hypercortisolemia. Furthermore, social isolation may possibly augment the signs and symptoms of depressed patients with potential alteration in neurogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18
JournalFrontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2017


  • Corticosterone
  • Emotion
  • Hippocampus
  • Mood
  • Neurogenesis
  • Social isolation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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