Development of Social Attention in Male Juvenile Rhesus Macaques Open Access

Meisner, Olivia (2016)

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Adolescence is a developmental period characterized by behavioral, neurological, and hormonal changes. In addition to substantial social and physical reorientation, this period gives rise to an increased prevalence of psychiatric disorders. To further our understanding of these mental health disorders, it is crucial to first investigate the normal trajectory of social development during adolescence in an animal model. This longitudinal study seeks to document normative socioemotional development in juvenile rhesus macaques by investigating changes in attention to social stimuli prior to adolescence using eye-tracking technology at 4 time points (18, 22, 26, and 36 months) over the pre-pubertal period. Three juvenile male rhesus macaques viewed videos of conspecifics performing stereotyped positive, negative, and neutral facial expressions. Results show that attention to socially salient regions increases with age throughout the pre-pubertal period but has not yet reached adult-like levels at 36 months of age. Additionally, once juveniles reach 36 months, they are able to rapidly modulate their attention to social stimuli based upon emotional content, but not before. These data suggest that social attention and emotion processing abilities continue to develop throughout the pre-pubertal period. This experiment compliments previous research in humans suggesting that adolescence is a developmental window for socioemotional maturation. Future research using this animal model is needed to investigate the role of key brain regions and pubertal hormones in this social reorganization.

Table of Contents

Introduction. 1

Development of face processing abilities. 2

Puberty and social development. 3

Adolescence and brain development. 4

Modeling social development. 6

Methods. 8

Subjects. 8

Research design. 8

Results. 13

Aim 1: Whole Video Analyses. 13

Aim 2: Emotional Component Analyses. 14

Discussion. 17

Age Related Development of Social Attention. 17

Age Related Development of Emotion Processing. 19

Limitations. 22

Future Directions. 23

References. 25

Figures. 29

Figure 1. 29

Figure 2. 30

Figure 3. 31

Figure 4. 32

Figure 5. 33

Figure 6. 34

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