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Early predictors of impaired social functioning in male rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta)

Sclafani, V., Del Rosso, L. A., Seil, S. K., Calonder, L. A., Madrid, J. E., Bone, K. J., Sherr, E. H., Garner, J. P., Capitanio, J. P. and Parker, K. J. (2016) Early predictors of impaired social functioning in male rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). PLoS ONE, 11 (10). e0165401. ISSN 1932-6203

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0165401

Abstract/Summary

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by social cognition impairments but its basic disease mechanisms remain poorly understood. Progress has been impeded by the absence of animal models that manifest behavioral phenotypes relevant to ASD. Rhesus monkeys are an ideal model organism to address this barrier to progress. Like humans, rhesus monkeys are highly social, possess complex social cognition abilities, and exhibit pronounced individual differences in social functioning. Moreover, we have previously shown that Low-Social (LS) vs. High-Social (HS) adult male monkeys exhibit lower social motivation and poorer social skills. It is not known, however, when these social deficits first emerge. The goals of this study were to test whether juvenile LS and HS monkeys differed as infants in their ability to process social information, and whether infant social abilities predicted later social classification (i.e., LS vs. HS), in order to facilitate earlier identification of monkeys at risk for poor social outcomes. Social classification was determined for N = 25 LS and N = 25 HS male monkeys that were 1–4 years of age. As part of a colony-wide assessment, these monkeys had previously undergone, as infants, tests of face recognition memory and the ability to respond appropriately to conspecific social signals. Monkeys later identified as LS vs. HS showed impairments in recognizing familiar vs. novel faces and in the species-typical adaptive ability to gaze avert to scenes of conspecific aggression. Additionally, multivariate logistic regression using infant social ability measures perfectly predicted later social classification of all N = 50 monkeys. These findings suggest that an early capacity to process important social information may account for differences in rhesus monkeys’ motivation and competence to establish and maintain social relationships later in life. Further development of this model will facilitate identification of novel biological targets for intervention to improve social outcomes in at-risk young monkeys.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
ID Code:67980
Publisher:Public Library of Science

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