Abstract # 158:

Scheduled for Saturday, June 23, 2012 09:00 AM-10:00 AM: Session 23 (Magnolia) Featured Speaker


USING THE CROSS-TRANSLATIONAL MODEL TO STUDY PRIMATE PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING

M. A. Novak
Neuroscience and Behavior Program and Psychology Department, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Amherst, MA 01003, USA
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     Psychological well-being has been applied in a regulatory context to the maintenance of nonhuman primates in captivity. However, research has shown that individual members of primate species exhibit significant variation in behavior and preference. Well-being is typically assessed in nonhuman primates using health exams and behavioral monitoring. The presence of abnormal behavior is often considered a sign of stress (or anxiety), even without other physiological measures. Although analysis of cortisol can be used as a biomarker of stress, this approach is problematic because, unlike standard tests of blood chemistry, there are no simple norms for interpreting cortisol levels. Both high and low levels can indicate dysfunction of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Our research with rhesus monkeys has shown that abnormal behavior has a complex etiology involving exposure to certain experiences combined with genetic vulnerability. It has also shown that the same behavioral outcome (e.g., self-injurious behavior) can occur through different developmental pathways. Given the close genetic relationship between humans and nonhuman primates, there is considerable value to using a cross-translational model where information from various human conditions informs the animal research and vice versa. For example, rhythmic stereotypic behavior occurs at mild levels in most humans. Possible functions and emotional states can be assessed and that information used to formulate better hypotheses about the causes of abnormal behavior in nonhuman primates and to design effective treatments.