Abstract # 78:

Scheduled for Thursday, August 18, 2005 07:00 PM-09:00 PM: (Cambridge/Oxford Room) Poster Presentation

The role of social environment on training success in female rhesus macaques

L. Tully and K. Coleman
Oregon National Primate Research Center, 505 NW 185th Ave, Beaverton, OR 97006, USA
     Training monkeys to cooperate with research procedures can reduce stress associated with these procedures. However, there are vast individual differences in ability to learn tasks. In this study we examined the role of social environment on training success in adult, female rhesus macaques, Macaca mulatta. We used positive reinforcement training techniques to train 10 sets of paired monkeys (20 individuals) to touch a target (a piece of PVC hung on the outside of the cage). Because subordinate monkeys can be wary in the presence of their partner, we hypothesized that dominant monkeys would be easier to train. Training sessions were 3 times per week. Training was considered successful if the monkey performed the task on command at least 3 times on 3 consecutive sessions. The time to reach training criteria was highly concordant between partners (P < 0.01). However, contrary to our expectations, there was a trend for the subordinate monkey to learn faster than her dominant partner (P = 0.07). To see whether the presence of a partner slows training progress, we compared the time to train paired monkeys with the time to train the same task in 11 singly caged female rhesus. The singly caged monkeys reliably touched the target in fewer training sessions than pair housed individuals (P = 0.02). These results suggest that social environment can play a role in training success.