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Dev Psychobiol. 2001 Sep;39(2):76-83.

Stress-induced sickness behaviors: an alternative hypothesis for responses during maternal separation.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Wright State University, Dayton, OH 45435, USA.


During maternal separation, some primate and nonprimate species show a biphasic (active/passive) response. The second stage is characterized by reduced activity, a hunched body posture, and other behaviors. Traditionally, the second stage has been referred to as "despair" and is considered an animal model for human depression. Recent research in psychoneuroimmunology suggests an alternative hypothesis--that behaviors occurring during the second passive phase represent stress-induced "sickness behaviors." This perspective more readily accounts for findings in widely divergent species, does not require assumptions regarding the ability to express complex emotional states, is empirically testable, and aligns the separation model with recent hypotheses regarding the nature and ontogeny of depressive illness.

Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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