Behavioral and physiological effects of an infant-neglect manipulation in a bi-parental, twinning primate: Impact is dependent on familial factors

Andrea C. Dettling, Christian R. Schnell, Claudia Maier, Joram Feldon*, Christopher R. Pryce

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Experimental animal studies and epidemiological and clinical human studies demonstrate that atypical infant-caregiving can exert short- and long-term effects on offspring phenotype, including increased long-term risk of affective disorders. Whilst the early environment is therefore a major determinant of behavioral, physiological and neurobiological phenotypes, the effects of early adversity exhibit individual variation, presumably due to differences in environment-genotype interactions. Twin studies provide a powerful model with which to study such interactions. However, human twin studies rarely include analysis of genotype-environment interactions or of individuals exposed to extreme environments, and rat studies have rarely attempted to utilize littermates (i.e. dizygotic twins) to investigate environment-genotype interactions. Here, we report on the effects of repeated deprivation of caregiving in the common marmoset, a primate that exhibits dizygotic twinning and bi-parental care. Breeding pairs each contributed early deprived (ED) twins and control (CON) twins, thereby allowing for the study of effects of ED, parentage and ED-parentage interaction. Significant ED×parentage interaction effects were obtained for basal urinary, plasma and cerebrospinal-fluid cortisol titers (infancy-adolescence), and basal levels of social and maintenance behaviors (juveniles); basal urinary cortisol titers during a 2-week period of repeated psychosocial challenge (juveniles), and social and exploratory behavior during psychosocial challenge (juveniles). Significant main effects of ED were obtained for: basal levels of time spent in contact with parents (ED>CON; juveniles) and in locomotor activity (ED<CON; adolescents); basal and psychosocial-stress-related systolic blood pressure (ED>CON; juveniles); time spent in locomotor activity (ED<CON), contact calling (ED<CON) and exploring novelty (ED>CON) during psychosocial challenge (juveniles). This study provides evidence for long-term effects of early environment on bio-behavioral traits and states in marmosets specifically, and the importance of including parental factors in developmental studies in mammals generally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-349
Number of pages19
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Cardiophysiology
  • HPA system
  • Neglect
  • Primate
  • Social behavior
  • Stress


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