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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 1995;20(7):735-42.

Opiate systems in mother and infant primates coordinate intimate contact during reunion.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison 53792-2475, USA.


In humans, and non-human primates, reunion following a separation results in a positive emotional state, and an increase in affiliative behaviors. To examine the role of opiate systems, in mothers and infants in mediating reunion behavior, morphine and naltrexone were administered after a brief separation. Infants administered morphine (0.1 mg/kg IM) showed a significant reduction in clinging and girning, a vocalization emitted during close physical contact. Naltrexone (5 mg/kg IM) had opposite effects. When administered to mothers, again morphine decreased and naltrexone increased clinging. Morphine administered to mothers had a more transient behavioral effect which could not be accounted for by lower morphine blood levels. These results demonstrate that during reunion, the amount of intimate contact between a mother and her infant is regulated by the reciprocal activation of their opiate systems. This activation of opiate systems may reinforce the infant's need for attachment and the mother's role in care giving.

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