Abstract # 87:

Scheduled for Friday, June 18, 2010 07:00 PM-09:00 PM: Session 18 (Medallion Ballroom C/D/E/F) Poster Presentation


HUMAN-DIRECTED CONTRA-AGGRESSION TRAINING USING POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT FOR INDOOR-HOUSED RHESUS MACAQUES

D. E. Minier1, L. Tatum1 and B. McCowan1,2
1California National Primate Research Center, University of California, Davis, CA, USA, 2Population Health & Reproduction, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, California
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The quality of human-animal interactions can be an indicator of well-being in laboratory primates and increased anxiety-related behavior, such as aggression, may compromise an animal’s ability to provide research outcomes reflective of normal function. The objective of this study was to improve human-animal management relationships by testing the effects of positive reinforcement training (PRT) on reducing human-directed aggression in rhesus macaques. Using a blind experimental approach for assessing aggressiveness (human intruder test, husbandry response test) in groups of subjects either untrained [controls, n=5], trained by a single trainer [n=5] or trained by multiple trainers [n=5], we evaluated the change in aggressiveness during baseline conditions, one-day post-training, and six-weeks post-training.  Results via Poisson regression analysis showed (1) significant reduction in aggression in post-training to baseline human intruder test for the single trainer group [P<0.01] but not in multiple trainer [P=0.08] or untrained [P=1.00] groups; and (2) significant decrease in fear in the husbandry response test for both single trainer [P< 0.001] and multiple trainer [P<0.002] but not the untrained group  [P=0.10]. These preliminary results indicate that contra-aggression training and PRT in general can substantially reduce aggressiveness and fear in nonhuman primates and significantly enhance their wellbeing during routine research and medical procedures; however, the approach of training such as single versus multiple trainers can affect the efficacy and thus outcome of training benefits.