Attachment formation is crucial for social animals to survive in natural environments. Predisposition and imprinting mechanisms have been well documented as a process of con-specific affiliation development. However, it is unclear how neonatal stage attachment formation leads to juvenile peer sociality. Here we have developed an animal model (Gallus gallus domesticus) and a method of quantitative behavioral analysis, to study the developmental trajectory from postnatal day (P) 3 through to P21. Domestic chicks were raised in either group or isolated conditions and we focused on social behavior during a two-minute meeting context with unfamiliar group peers at P3, 7, 13, 16, and 21. Results showed that relative to isolated chicks, group reared chicks were more active behaviorally, when facing peers at P3 and that this activity declined slightly over development, up to P13. Isolated chicks that had not met any animals except humans, exhibited a major change in social behavior around P7, in particular, with increasing activity (head moving velocity and rotation velocity) and distress calls. This modulation disappeared after P13, suggesting the existence of a sensitive window for behavior toward peers around P7. These findings in isolated chicks suggest the maturation of new neuronal substrates for peer-social emotion and cognition, resulting in a new combination of behavioral modules. © 2013.
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