Social isolation (SI) is a major health risk in older people leading to cognitive decline. This study examined how SI and age influence performance in the novel object recognition (NOR) and elevated plus maze (EPM) tasks in C57BL/6 mice aged 3 or 24 months. Mice were group-housed (groups of 2–3) or isolated for 2 weeks prior to experimentation. Following NOR and EPM testing hippocampal norepinephrine (NE), 5, hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), 5, hydroxyindole acetic acid (5-HIAA), corticosterone (CORT) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) were determined and serum collected for basal CORT analysis. A separate set of mice were exposed to the forced swim test (FST), sacrificed immediately and serum CORT determined. SI impaired performance in the NOR and the FST, reduced hippocampal 5-HT, increased hippocampal IL-6 and increased serum CORT post-FST in young mice. Aged mice either failed to respond significantly to SI (NOR, FST, hippocampal 5-HT, serum CORT post FST) or SI had synergistic effects with age (hippocampal NE, 5-HIAA:5-HT). In conclusion, the lack of response to SI in the aged mice may affect health by preventing them adapting to new stressors, while the synergistic effects of SI with age would increase allostatic load and enhance the deleterious effects of the ageing process.
- Social isolation