Early adverse experience increases emotional reactivity in juvenile rhesus macaques: Relation to amygdala volume

Brittany R. Howell, Alison P. Grand, Kai M. Mccormack, Yundi Shi, Jamie L. Laprarie, Dario Maestripieri, Martin A. Styner, Mar M. Sanchez

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


This study investigated the impact of infant maltreatment on juvenile rhesus monkeys' behavioral reactivity to novel stimuli and its associations with amygdala volume. Behavioral reactivity to novel stimuli of varying threat intensity was measured using Approach/Avoidance (AA) and Human Intruder (HI) tasks. In vivo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to measure amygdala volume. Interestingly, group behavioral differences were context-dependent. When exposed to a human intruder, maltreated subjects displayed more anxious behaviors than controls; however, when presented with fear-evoking objects, maltreated animals exhibited increased aggression and a shorter latency to inspect the objects. Finally, under testing conditions with the lowest levels of threat (neutral novel objects) maltreated animals also showed shorter latencies to inspect objects, and reduced avoidance and increased exploration compared to controls. This suggests alterations in threat assessment and less behavioral inhibition in animals with early adverse experience compared to controls. Some of these behavioral responses were associated with amygdala volume, which was positively correlated with abuse rates received during infancy, particularly reflecting a relationship with exploration, consistent with previous studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1735-1746
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopmental psychobiology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • Amygdala
  • Behavioral reactivity
  • Brain development
  • Early life stress
  • Infant maltreatment
  • Nonhuman primates
  • Rhesus monkey


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