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Biol Psychiatry. 2003 Oct 1;54(7):727-35.

A magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging study of adult nonhuman primates exposed to early-life stressors.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York, USA.



Long-term behavioral, immunologic, and neurochemical alterations have been found in primates exposed to adverse early rearing.


Bonnet macaque (Macaca radiata) mother-infant dyads were exposed to uncertain requirements for food procurement (variable foraging demand, VFD) for a few months. Ten years later, these offspring and age- and gender-matched control subjects were studied using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (MRSI).


In anterior cingulate, VFD-reared subjects displayed significantly decreased N-acetylaspartate (NAA) resonance and significantly increased glutamate-glutamine-gamma-aminobutyric acid (Glx) resonance relative to the stable neurometabolite creatine (Cr). Across all subjects, NAA/Cr and Glx/Cr ratios in the anterior cingulate were negatively correlated (r = -.638, p =.014). In the medial temporal lobe, the ratio of choline-containing compounds to Cr was significantly increased in VFD subjects.


These findings indicate that adverse early rearing in primates has an enduring impact on adult MRSI measures considered reflective of neuronal integrity and metabolism, membrane structure and glial function, and cerebral glutamate content, and that these alterations occur in the same brain regions implicated in trauma-related psychiatric disorders.

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