Abstract # 7:

Scheduled for Wednesday, June 19, 2013 09:45 AM-10:00 AM: (San Geronimo Ballroom B) Symposium


WHAT CAN CORTISOL TELL US ABOUT MONOGAMY?

S. P. Mendoza and W. A. Mason
University of California, Davis, Department of Psychology and , California National Primate Research Center, Davis, CA 95616, USA
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     The primary function of stress response systems is to adjust internal processes in response to alterations in the physical world. Focusing on a single hormone, cortisol, we have examined features of the social terrain that evoke activation or altered regulation of the stress response in titi monkeys (Callicebus cupreus). These studies have shown that infants respond to loss of their fathers more than mothers and fathers buffer infant stress more capably than mothers or siblings. The intensity of the paternal bond persists until adulthood. Parents are more distressed by disruption of the pair-bond than by loss or discomfort of other family members including their dependent infant. Evidence of socially induced changes in regulation of the hypothalamic pituitary-adrenal system is suggested by: 1. loss of parents results in elevated cortisol that can persist for several months; and 2. birth of an infant leads to increased stress-responsiveness in all family members. These studies highlight the utility of using hormonal responses to elucidate nuances of social systems, including monogamy. Moreover, since cortisol has widespread systemic effects and is particularly important in changing metabolic processes to enable efficient utilization of energy resources and altering behavioral probablities it is reasonable to suppose that cortisol is involved in sustaining the monogamous social system displayed by titi monkeys.