dopamine, early rearing, monoamine metabolites, norepinephrine, rhesus macaque, serotonin, serotonin transporter genotype, social separation


A variety of studies show that parental absence early in life leads to deleterious effects on the developing CNS. This is thought to be largely because evolutionary-dependent stimuli are necessary for the appropriate postnatal development of the young brain, an effect sometimes termed the “experience-expectant brain,” with parents providing the necessary input for normative synaptic connections to develop and appropriate neuronal survival to occur. Principal among CNS systems affected by parental input are the monoamine systems. In the present study, N = 434 rhesus monkeys (233 males, 201 females) were reared in one of two conditions: as mother-reared controls (MR; n = 269) or without adults with 24-h access to same-aged peers (PR; n = 165). When subjects were six-months-old, they underwent a separation paradigm involving 4, sequential, four-day social separations from their mothers or peers, with each separation followed by three-day reunions with their mothers or their peers. Prior to the separation paradigm, baseline cisternal CSF samples were obtained, as well as at the end of each the four social separations, and after final separation, during a recovery period. CSF was assayed for concentrations of monoamine metabolites and a blood sample was genotyped for the serotonin transporter (5-HTT) genotype. Replicating earlier landmark findings, PR subjects with the s allele exhibited lower baseline concentrations of the serotonin metabolite 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA), when compared to PR subjects homozygous for the L allele. MR subjects were undifferentiated by genotype. PR subjects exhibited lower CSF 5-HIAA concentrations during baseline, but higher CSF 5-HIAA during social separations, when compared to MR subjects. There were rearing effects for the dopamine metabolite homovanillic acid (HVA) and for the norepinephrine

metabolite 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol (MHPG), with PR subjects showing higher HVA and lower MHPG when compared to MR subjects. These findings indicate that there are long-term deficits in the response of monoamines following early maternal absence. The results of this study confirm and extend earlier findings that early parental absence has deleterious consequences for the development of the monoamine systems, and that these consequences are modulated by the 5-HTT genotype.

Original Publication Citation

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Frontiers in Human Neuroscience




Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor

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Psychology Commons