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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2009 Jan;34(1):90-105. doi: 10.1038/npp.2008.150. Epub 2008 Sep 17.

Non-human primates: model animals for developmental psychopathology.

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  • 1Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program, Intramural Research Program, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.


Non-human primates have been used to model psychiatric disease for several decades. The success of this paradigm has issued from comparable cognitive skills, brain morphology, and social complexity in adult monkeys and humans. Recently, interest in biological psychiatry has focused on similar brain, social, and emotional developmental processes in monkeys. In part, this is related to evidence that early postnatal experiences in human development may have profound implications for subsequent mental health. Non-human primate studies of postnatal phenomenon have generally fallen into three basic categories: experiential manipulation (largely manipulations of rearing), pharmacological manipulation (eg drug-induced psychosis), and anatomical localization (defined by strategic surgical damage). Although these efforts have been very informative each of them has certain limitations. In this review we highlight general findings from the non-human primate postnatal developmental literature and their implications for primate models in psychiatry. We argue that primates are uniquely capable of uncovering interactions between genes, environmental challenges, and development resulting in altered risk for psychopathology.

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