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Date of Award


Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychological Science



First Reader/Committee Chair

Dr. Cynthia Crawford


Fischer 344 (F344) rats may be useful for studying impairments in social interactions because they exhibit reduced play behavior compared to Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats. The purpose of this investigation was to explore F344 rats as a model of early social interaction deficits and to determine if oxytocin (OT) activity mediated attachment behavior. To this end, we conducted three experiments measuring the preference of a dam-paired odor in postnatal day (PD) 12 F344 and SD rats.

In Experiment 1, PD 11 pups were conditioned with a dam- or neutral-paired odor and tested for odor preference on PD 12. Experiments 2 and 3 used the same protocol as Experiment 1, except in Experiments 2 and 3, pups received an injection of OT (0, 250, 500, or 1000 ng, IC) or OT antagonist (OTA) (0.1, 0.3, or 1 mg/kg, IP) prior to the start of conditioning.

Preference for the dam-paired odor did not differ between rat strains, however both male and female F344 pups showed a greater preference for the maternal odor when treated with OT. Male rats showed this enhanced preference at 500 ng OT while females required 1000 ng OT. OT did not alter odor preference in SD pups and OTA did not alter either rat strain’s preference.

In conclusion, F344 rat pups do not have attachment deficits but may be useful for testing compounds to treat attachment disorders. It is possible that maternal attachment differs from other social behaviors, such as play behavior.

Exogenous OT administration enhanced attachment but only in F344 rats. These data suggest further research on OT in F344 rats is warranted. In addition, it has been suggested that, since ASD affects more boys than girls, the problem may lie with AVP rather than OT. Therefore, other mechanisms may be involved in the development of social behaviors and perhaps the development of maternal attachment. Further testing of other neurochemicals such as dopamine and AVP as well as examining other stages of development (i.e., adolescence and adulthood) may be useful in identifying new therapeutics for ASD.