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PLoS One. 2009;4(1):e4156. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004156. Epub 2009 Jan 14.

Serotonin transporter genotype modulates social reward and punishment in rhesus macaques.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology, Duke University, LSRC Room, Durham, North Carolina, USA. karlikiiko@gmail.com

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Serotonin signaling influences social behavior in both human and nonhuman primates. In humans, variation upstream of the promoter region of the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR) has recently been shown to influence both behavioral measures of social anxiety and amygdala response to social threats. Here we show that length polymorphisms in 5-HTTLPR predict social reward and punishment in rhesus macaques, a species in which 5-HTTLPR variation is analogous to that of humans.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:

In contrast to monkeys with two copies of the long allele (L/L), monkeys with one copy of the short allele of this gene (S/L) spent less time gazing at face than non-face images, less time looking in the eye region of faces, and had larger pupil diameters when gazing at photos of a high versus low status male macaques. Moreover, in a novel primed gambling task, presentation of photos of high status male macaques promoted risk-aversion in S/L monkeys but promoted risk-seeking in L/L monkeys. Finally, as measured by a "pay-per-view" task, S/L monkeys required juice payment to view photos of high status males, whereas L/L monkeys sacrificed fluid to see the same photos.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE:

These data indicate that genetic variation in serotonin function contributes to social reward and punishment in rhesus macaques, and thus shapes social behavior in humans and rhesus macaques alike.

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