Adaptation to social isolation - Acute and long-term stress responses of growing gilts with different coping characteristics

M.A.W. Ruis, J.H.A. te Brake, B. Engel, W.G. Buist, H.J. Blokhuis, J.M. Koolhaas

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103 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The present experiment studied the acute and long-term stress responses of reactive and proactive prepubertal gilts to social isolation. Gilts with either reactive or proactive features were identified according to behavioral resistance in a backtest at a young age (2-4 days), respectively being low (LR) and high resistant (HR) in this test. At 7 weeks of age, 12 gilts of each type were socially isolated. Initially, isolation was stressful for both types of gilts, as shown by increased cortisol concentrations and decreased body temperatures. Moreover, both types reacted with increases in exploration and vocalizations. Stress responses to isolation, however, differed in magnitude and/or duration between LR and HR gilts, which was in line with expected reaction patterns on the basis of preferred ways of coping. The cortisol response to isolation was higher in LR gilts, and they generally showed more explorative behavior. HR gilts seemed to be more engaged in walking/running behavior in the first hour after isolation, they generally vocalized more and their noradrenaline excretion in urine was higher at 3 weeks after the start of isolation. Several responses to isolation in the longer term pointed to a prolonged higher general state of stress of HR gilts. Body temperature in HR gilts, for instance, did not recover during 3 weeks of isolation, but values returned to "normal" within 1 day in LR gilts. At 1 week of isolation, relatively high parasympathetic responsivity to novelty was observed in HR gilts, probably due to stress-related high sympathetic reactivity. A shift in percentages of leucocyte subsets, typically occurring under conditions of stress, only developed in HR gilts during isolation. Finally, gastric ulceration was found in one HR gilt, but did not occur in LR gilts. To conclude, LR and HR gilts differed in their strategies to adapt to social isolation, and especially for HR gilts, this procedure seemed to become a chronic stressor.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541-551
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Volume73
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2001

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