Role of basal stress hormones and amygdala dimensions in stress coping strategies of male rhesus monkeys in response to a hazard-reward conflict

Document Type: Original Article


1 Neuroscience Research Center, Baqiyatallah University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

2 Department of Physiology, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

3 Department of Electrical, Biomedical and Mechatronics Engineering, Qazvin Branch, Islamic Azad University, Qazvin, Iran

4 Animal Core Facility, Reproductive Biomedicine Research Center, Royan Institute for Biotechnology, ACECR, Tehran, Iran

5 Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology, Faculty of Pharmacy, Baqiyatallah University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran


Objective(s): In the present study the effect of stress on monkeys that had learned to retrieve food from a five-chamber receptacle, as well as the relationship between their behavior and the serum cortisol and epinephrine levels and relative size of the amygdala was evaluated.
Materials and Methods: Six male rhesus monkeys were individually given access to the food reward orderly. They could easily retrieve the rewards from all chambers except for the chamber 4, which a brief, mild electric shock (3 V) was delivered to them upon touching the chamber’s interior. The coping behaviors were video-recorded and analyzed offline. Baseline serum cortisol and epinephrine levels were measured before the experiments using monkey enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay kit. One week after the behavioral experiment, the monkeys’ brains were scanned using magnetic resonance imaging under general anesthesia. The cross-sectional area of the left amygdala in sagittal plane relative to the area of the whole brain in the same slice was evaluated by the planimetric method using ImageJ software.
Results: Exposure to the distressing condition caused different behavioral responses. Monkeys with higher baseline levels of serum cortisol and epinephrine and larger amygdala behaved more violently in the face of stress, indicating adopting emotion-focused stress-coping strategies. Conversely, those with low plasma epinephrine, moderate cortisol, and smaller amygdala showed perseverative behavior, indicating a problem-focused coping style.
Conclusion: In dealing with the same stress, different responses might be observed from nonhuman primates according to their cortisol and epinephrine levels as well as their amygdala dimensions.


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