Charbonneau, J. A., Amaral, D. G. Bliss-Moreau, E. 2022. Social housing status impacts rhesus monkeys’ affective responding in classic threat processing tasks. Scientific Reports 12(1), 4140.

Individuals’ social contexts are broadly recognized to impact both their psychology and neurobiology. These effects are observed in people and in nonhuman animals who are the subjects for comparative and translational science. The social contexts in which monkeys are reared have long been recognized to have significant impacts on affective processing. Yet, the social contexts in which monkeys live as adults are often ignored and could have important consequences for interpreting findings, particularly those related to biopsychiatry and behavioral neuroscience studies. The extant nonhuman primate neuropsychological literature has historically tested individually-housed monkeys, creating a critical need to understand how social context might impact the outcomes of such experiments. We evaluated affective responding in adult rhesus monkeys living in four different social contexts using two classic threat processing tasks—a test of responsivity to objects and a test of responsivity to an unfamiliar human. These tasks have been commonly used in behavioral neuroscience for decades. Relative to monkeys with full access to a social partner, individually-housed monkeys had blunted reactivity to threat and monkeys who had limited contact with their partner were more reactive to some threatening stimuli. These results indicate that monkeys’ social housing contexts impact affective reactivity and point to the potential need to reconsider inferences drawn from prior studies in which the impacts of social context have not been considered.