Effects of social context on endocrine function and Zif268 expression in response to an acute stressor in adolescent and adult rats.
Communication is essential to members of a society not only for the expression of personal information, but also for the protection from environmental threats. Highly social mammals have a distinct characteristic: when conspecific animals are together, they show a better recovery from experiences of distress. This phenomenon, termed 'social buffering', has been found in rodents, birds, non-human primates and also in humans. This paper reviews classical findings on social buffering and focuses, in particular, on social buffering effects in relation to neuroendocrine stress responses. The social cues that transmit social buffering signals, the neural mechanisms of social buffering and a partner's efficacy with respect to social buffering are also detailed. Social contact appears to have a very positive influence on the psychological and the physiological aspects of social animals, including human beings. Research leading towards further understanding of the mechanisms of social buffering could provide alternative medical treatments based on the natural, individual characteristics of social animals, which could improve the quality of life.