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Am J Primatol. 2003 Dec;61(4):187-94.

Approach to a social stranger is associated with low central nervous system serotonergic responsivity in female cynomolgus monkeys (Macaca fascicularis).

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  • 1Behavioral Physiology Laboratory, Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.


It is widely hypothesized that individual differences in central nervous system (CNS) serotonergic activity underlie dimensional variation in "impulsive" vs. "inhibited" social behavior in both humans and nonhuman primates. To assess relative impulsivity in a social context, a behavioral challenge involving animals' exposure to a social stranger (termed the "Intruder Challenge") was recently validated in adolescent and adult male vervet monkeys (Cercopithecus aethiops sabaeus). Among these animals, monkeys that quickly approached the intruder were found to have lower cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) concentrations of the serotonin (5-HT) metabolite, 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid, than less impulsive animals. In the present study we extended these observations to determine whether approach to a social stranger, as operationalized by the Intruder Challenge, is similarly associated with diminished CNS serotonergic function in female cynomolgus monkeys (Macaca fascicularis). Study animals were 25 adult monkeys that had been housed for 2 years in stable social groups. In each animal, the rise in plasma prolactin concentration induced by acute administration of the 5-HT agonist, fenfluramine, was used to assess "net" central serotonergic responsivity. When exposed later to an unfamiliar female of the same species in a catch-cage placed for 20 min within the subjects' home enclosure, monkeys that approached to within 1 m of the intruder (median latency to approach=3 min) were found to have significantly smaller prolactin responses to fenfluramine (diminished serotonergic responsivity) compared to "inhibited" animals that failed to approach the intruder (t=2.9, df=23, P<0.009; rpb=-0.51). Neither approach behavior nor the animals' fenfluramine-induced prolactin responses covaried significantly with nondirected expressions of arousal (or anxiety) or with aggressive behaviors exhibited during testing. We conclude that in female cynomolgus monkeys, social impulsivity (vs. inhibition) correlates inversely with individual differences in CNS serotonergic activity, as assessed by neuroendocrine challenge.

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