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Biol Psychiatry. 1996 Sep 1;40(5):338-52.

Rearing experience and biogenic amine activity in infant rhesus monkeys.

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  • 1Asher Center for the Study and Treatment of Depressive Disorders, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, Illinois, USA.


In this report we present evidence that early social experience influences aspects of the function of brain biogenic amine systems, most notably the noradrenergic system. Biogenic amine activity was studied in mother- vs. peer-reared monkey infants over the first 6 months of life and in response to two housing transitions. Norepinephrine (NE), 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol (MHPG), dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC), homovanillic acid (HVA), and 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) levels in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) were measured. Peer-reared monkeys showed significantly higher CSF levels of norepinephrine and MHPG than mother-reared animals over early development, but showed an attentuated NE response to separation and group formation compared to mother-reared animals. Peer-reared monkeys showed a greater developmental decline in 5-HIAA levels than mother-reared monkeys. There were no rearing effects for DOPAC or HVA over early development; however, peer-reared monkeys showed significantly lower HVA and DOPAC concentrations at 6-8 months of age. The results add to evidence for the influence of primate mothers on the psychobiological development of central nervous system neurotransmitter systems in their infants, and suggest that the noradrenergic system is among the more sensitive of these to early experience.

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