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Juvenile Fischer 344 rats are known to be less playful than other inbred strains, although the neurobiological substrate(s) responsible for this phenotype is uncertain. In the present study, Fischer 344 rats were compared to the commonly used outbred Sprague-Dawley strain on several behavioral and physiological parameters in order to ascertain whether the lack of play may be related to compromised activity of brain dopamine (DA) systems. As expected, Fischer 344 rats were far less playful than Sprague-Dawley rats, with Fischer 344 rats less likely to initiate playful contacts with a playful partner and less likely to respond playfully to these contacts. We also found that Fischer 344 rats showed less of a startle response and greater pre-pulse inhibition (PPI), especially at higher prepulse intensities. The increase in PPI seen in the Fischer 344 rat could be due to reduced DA modulation of sensorimotor gating and neurochemical measures were consistent with Fischer 344 rats releasing less DA than Sprague-Dawley rats. Fast scan cyclic voltammetry (FSCV) revealed Fischer 344 rats had less evoked DA release in dorsal and ventral striatal brain slices and high-performance liquid chromatography revealed Fischer 344 rats to have less DA turnover in the striatum and prefrontal cortex. We also found DA-dependent forms of cortical plasticity were deficient in the striatum and prefrontal cortex of the Fischer 344 rat. Taken together, these data indicate that deficits in play and enhanced PPI of Fischer 344 rats may be due to reduced DA modulation of corticostriatal and mesolimbic/mesocortical circuits critical to the execution of these behaviors.