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Brain Behav Immun. 1991 Sep;5(3):296-307.

Formation of a new social group of unfamiliar female rhesus monkeys affects the immune and pituitary adrenocortical systems.

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Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center, Atlanta, Georgia.


Social stress associated with the formation of a new group of rhesus monkeys resulted in increased basal cortisol secretion and significant decreases in immunological parameters. Eight adult female rhesus monkeys, all of which had been raised in social groups, but with no common social history, were simultaneously introduced into an outdoor enclosure along with an adult male. Behavioral data were collected during the introduction and over 9 weeks thereafter. Blood samples were collected prior to and at intervals for 9 weeks following formation. The establishment of a dominance hierarchy, apparent within 48 h, was accomplished with no serious fighting and a complete absence of wounding or trauma. Overall, the group showed a significant increase in cortisol and a significant decrease in the absolute number of total lymphocytes and CD4+ and CD8+ T cells at 24 h postformation, but not thereafter. However, when partitioned into high and low dominance rank, differences in CD4+ and CD8+ T cells were evident for up to 9 weeks with low ranking subjects showing significantly lower values. The housing condition of the subjects immediately prior to introduction, either indoors in individual caging or outdoors in social groups, may have influenced behavior, rank acquisition, and possibly differences in immune parameters. These data demonstrate that social group formation is a potent psychosocial stressor in primates, since stress-sensitive changes were observed in the absence of serious aggression and wounding.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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