In the present study we carried out a series of experiments in Swiss albino male mice to investigate a) the effects of previous social experience on the levels of anxiety in the elevated plus-maze (EPM) and b) whether the response of males in the EPM differs in relation to the different social status. In Experiment 1 we tested in the EPM male mice that received different social experience. Results showed that individually housing generally increased measures of anxiety in the EPM compared with the group-housing condition. Moreover, aggressive males, screened during dyadic encounters in a neutral cage, displayed the highest levels of anxiety relative to the other experimental conditions. In Experiment 2 male mice remained group-housed and were observed to record their social status. Results showed that those animals rated as socially dominant displayed a higher level of EPM anxiety relative to subordinates. From an ethological perspective our findings may be interpreted in terms of coping strategies, with aggressive/dominant animals typified by higher levels of risk assessment and open-arm avoidance than defensive/subordinate animals. PMID: 9618005 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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