Social play behavior, abundant in the young of most mammalian species, is thought to be important for social and cognitive development. Social play is highly rewarding, and as such, the expression of social play depends on its pleasurable and motivational properties. Since the motivational properties of social play have only sporadically been investigated, we developed a setup in which rats responded for social play under a progressive ratio schedule of reinforcement. Dopaminergic neurotransmission plays a key role in incentive motivational processes, and both dopamine and noradrenaline have been implicated in the modulation of social play behavior. Therefore, we investigated the role of dopamine and noradrenaline in the motivation for social play. Treatment with the psychostimulant drugs methylphenidate and cocaine increased responding for social play, but suppressed its expression during reinforced play periods. The dopamine reuptake inhibitor GBR-12909 increased responding for social play, but did not affect its expression, whereas the noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor atomoxetine decreased responding for social play as well as its expression. The effects of methylphenidate and cocaine on responding for social play, but not their play-suppressant effects, were blocked by pretreatment with the dopamine receptor antagonist α-flupenthixol. In contrast, pretreatment with the α2-adrenoceptor antagonist RX821002 prevented the play-suppressant effect of methylphenidate, but left its effect on responding for social play unaltered. In sum, the present study introduces a novel method to study the incentive motivational properties of social play behavior in rats. Using this paradigm, we demonstrate dissociable roles for dopamine and noradrenaline in social play behavior: dopamine stimulates the motivation for social play, whereas noradrenaline negatively modulates the motivation for social play behavior and its expression.Neuropsychopharmacology advance online publication, 2 September 2015; doi:10.1038/npp.2015.212.
Achterberg, E.J.M., van Kerkhof, L.W.M., Servadio, M., van Swieten, M.M.H., Houwing, D.J., Aalderink, M., et al. (2016). Contrasting Roles of Dopamine and Noradrenaline in the Motivational Properties of Social Play Behavior in Rats. NEUROPSYCHOPHARMACOLOGY, 41(3), 858-868 [10.1038/npp.2015.212].