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Cerebrospinal Fluid Monoamine and Adrenal Correlates of Aggression in Free-Ranging Rhesus Monkeys

J. Dee Higley, PhD; P.T. Mehlman, PhD; D. M. Taub, PhD; S. B. Higley; Stephen J. Suomi, PhD; M. Linnoila, MD, PhD; J. H. Vickers, DVM
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1992;49(6):436-441. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1992.01820060016002.
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• Clinical and preclinical studies involving several different mammalian species and research paradigms suggest a negative correlation between aggression and central serotonin activity. To test the generalizability of laboratory findings in rhesus monkeys that show a negative correlation between cerebrospinal fluid 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid concentrations and aggression, we obtained cisternal cerebrospinal fluid and blood plasma samples from monkeys living in naturalistic conditions. During a semiannual trapping, 28 juvenile and adolescent male rhesus monkeys were chosen from a population of 4200 provisioned, free-ranging rhesus monkeys living on Morgan Island, a sea island located off the coast of South Carolina. Based on direct observations of participation or avoidance of aggressive behavior and examinations of apparent fight wounds, 18 monkeys were selected for cerebrospinal fluid taps and blood samples. The remaining 10 monkeys were selected at random. Descriptions of aggressive behavior and the number of old scars and recent wounds were carefully transcribed, and a photograph showing wounds and scars was obtained for each animal. Using the transcriptions and photographs, researchers experienced in rhesus monkey behavior, but blind to the subjects' monoamine and hormone concentrations, were asked to rank the monkeys from the most to the least aggressive. The results showed a significant negative correlation between high rankings for aggression and cerebrospinal fluid 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid concentrations. There was evidence that aggression was associated with stress, in that cerebrospinal fluid, norepinephrine, and plasma corticotropin and cortisol concentrations were positively correlated with high rankings of aggression.


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