Social Isolation Selectively Increases Anxiety in Mice without Affecting Depression-like Behavior

It is hypothesized that a number of environmental factors affect animals' behavior. Without controlling these variables, it is very hard for researchers to get not only reliable, but replicable data from various behavioral experiments testing animals' cognitive as well as emotional functions. For example, laboratory mice which had restricted environment showed different synaptic potentiation properties with wild mice (Zhao MG et al., 2009). While performing behavioral experiments, however, it is sometimes inevitable that the researcher changes the animals' environments, as by switching the cages in which experimental animals are housed and separating animals raised together into small experimental groups. In this study, we investigated the effect of environmental changes on mice's emotional behaviors by socially isolating them or reducing the size of their cage. We found that social isolation selectively increases the animals' levels of anxiety, while leaving depression-like behaviors unchanged. On the other hand, alteration of the housing dimensions affected neither their anxiety levels nor their depression-like behaviors. These results suggest that environmental variables may have a prominent impact on experimental animals' emotional behaviors and possibly their psychological states, leading to bias in the behavioral data produced from experiments.