Overcrowding induces anxiety and causes loss of serotonin 5HT-1a receptors in rats

Willie M.U. Daniels, Charmaine Y. Pietersen, Machteld E. Carstens, Santy Daya, Dan Stein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Unfavorable conditions under which children grow up may contribute significantly to the development of psychiatric abnormalities in adult life. We studied the effects of overcrowding at an early age and how it may result in anxiety later in life. Sprague-Dawley rats were housed 10 animals per cage, from birth until 4 weeks post-weaning. Rats housed 3 per cage served as controls. The Elevated Plus maze was used to determine their anxious behavior. Thereafter, the serotonergic system in the hippocampus was investigated. Overcrowded rats were significantly more anxious than controls. The number of 5HT-1a receptors in the hippocampus decreased significantly and their affinity for the ligand, OH-DPAT, increased significantly. There was no significant difference in the hippocampal levels of serotonin between overcrowded rats and controls. Our study shows that overcrowding during childhood can result in anxious behavior and that the serotonergic system appears to play a role in its manifestation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-295
Number of pages9
JournalMetabolic Brain Disease
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Behavior
  • Hippocampus rats
  • Overcrowding
  • Serotonin


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