Abstract # 4197 Poster # 70:

Scheduled for Thursday, June 21, 2012 07:00 PM-09:00 PM: Session 9 (Gardenia) Poster Presentation


A. M. Dettmer1, A. Paukner2, M. A. Novak3, J. S. Meyer3, P. F. Ferrari4 and S. J. Suomi2
1University of Pittsburgh, Department of Psychiatry, Pittsburgh, PA 15239, USA, 2Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Laboratory of Comparative Ethology, NIH Animal Center, Poolesville, MD, 20837, 3University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Psychology, Amherst, MA, 01003, 4Universita di Parma, Dipartimento di Neuroscienze, Parma, Italy
     Neonatal imitation has been documented in human and nonhuman primate neonates, and it is known that humans with socio-emotional developmental disorders are deficient in imitation. However, prospective studies of emotional and social development with respect to neonatal imitation are lacking. We studied rhesus macaques (N=23) that were classified within the first week of life as imitators (n=9) or non-imitators (n=14), examining their physiological and behavioral development across the first six months of life. Group differences were examined with t-tests; predictive relationships were analyzed with Spearman correlations (all alpha=0.05). At six months of age, only non-imitators showed a significant increase in salivary cortisol after a brief social challenge. These infants also exhibited more anxious behavior in a social setting across the first six months of life. For non-imitators, hair cortisol measured at month 6 negatively predicted the frequencies of exploratory behavior and of contact play received by peers and positively predicted the durations of self-directed behaviors, whereas for imitators it negatively predicted aggression and social contact. Baseline salivary cortisol negatively predicted total social play and positively predicted anxiety for non-imitators, but negatively predicted exploratory behavior for imitators. These findings suggest an intriguing link between early imitation and future emotional and social development in young monkeys, and warrants further study of such development into the juvenile period.