Abstract # 21:

Scheduled for Thursday, June 17, 2010 11:45 AM-11:55 AM: Session 5 (Medallion Ballroom B) Oral Presentation


A. Paukner1, P. F. Ferrari2 and S. J. Suomi1
1Laboratory of Comparative Ethology, NIH Animal Center, Poolesville, MD 20837, USA, 2Dipartimento di Neuroscienze, Universita di Parma, Parma, Italy

We recently reported that infant rhesus macaques spontaneously match facial gestures of a human experimenter within the first week of life. This behavior is thought to be important for the development of mother-infant and other social relationships, but there remain questions as to whether these responses are triggered involuntarily, or whether infants can actively engage with others and solicit such face-to-face interactions. We tested 54 nursery-reared infant rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta; 1-7 days old) in a delayed imitation paradigm where a human experimenter first presented a neutral face (Baseline, 40 sec), then demonstrated a lipsmacking gesture (Stimulus, 100 sec), disengaged from the infant (Delay, 60 sec), and then returned to present a neutral face (Return, 60 sec). A repeated measures ANOVA [α=0.05] showed a main effect for time period [P<0.001]. Post-hoc comparisons indicate that infants increased lipsmacking responses from Baseline to Stimulus, which is consistent with neonatal imitation abilities. Moreover, infants significantly decreased lipsmacking responses during the Delay period, but showed increased levels of lipsmacking responses during Return compared to Baseline, which suggests a delayed imitation effect. We propose that neonatal imitation may serve as a means to understanding and communicating with others.