Abstract # 97:

Scheduled for Friday, June 22, 2012 11:15 AM-11:30 AM: Session 13 (3rd Floor All Space) Oral Presentation


E. Bliss-Moreau, C. J. Machado and D. G. Amaral
University of California, Davis, California National Primate Research Center, Davis, California 95616, USA
     Autonomic nervous system (ANS) reactivity is an important component of affective experience. A growing body of evidence suggests that patterns of ANS activity are related to the fundamental properties of human affective experience (i.e., valence or hedonics). We investigated whether rhesus macaques’ ANS responses to stimuli varied according to those stimuli’s affective properties. Four male macaques viewed 300 30-second videos clips depicting other monkeys displaying spontaneous behaviors that varied in affective content and other social properties (e.g., the number of animals present). Peripheral physiology (cardiac impedance and electrocardiogram) was measured noninvasively allowing for the computation of pre-ejection period (to index sympathetic nervous system activity) and respiratory sinus arrhythmia (to index parasympathetic nervous system activity). Data were subjected to hierarchical linear modeling. Sympathetic activity increased (t(1168)=2.25, p=.024) and parasympathetic activity decreased (t(1167)=2.90, p=.004) as video content ranged from positive to negative. Similarly, sympathetic activity increased (t(1168)=2.03, p=.043) and parasympathetic activity decreased (t(1167)=2.06, p=.040) as the number of animals present in a video increased. These findings indicate that rhesus macaque cardiac physiology tracks with the affective content of stimuli in the same manner observed in humans. Further, cardiac physiology is sensitive to properties of the social environment. As such, these findings suggest that cardiac psychophysiology can be used as an assay of affective experience in nonhuman animals that lack the ability to verbally report on their experiences.