Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Monkey "Pay-Per-View" Study Could Aid Understanding Of Autism

Date:
January 29, 2005
Source:
Duke University Medical Center
Summary:
Researches have found that monkeys will "pay" juice rewards to see images of high-ranking monkeys or female hindquarters. They say their research technique offers a rigorous laboratory approach to studying the "social machinery" of the brain and how this machinery goes tragically awry in autism -- a disease that afflicts more than a million Americans and is the fastest growing developmental disorder.

DURHAM, N.C. -- Researches have found that monkeys will "pay" juice rewards to see images of high-ranking monkeys or female hindquarters. They say their research technique offers a rigorous laboratory approach to studying the "social machinery" of the brain and how this machinery goes tragically awry in autism -- a disease that afflicts more than a million Americans and is the fastest growing developmental disorder.

Related Articles


In an article published early online by the journal Current Biology, Duke University Medical Center neurobiologists Michael Platt, Robert Deaner and Amit Khera describe experiments in which they gave male rhesus macaque monkeys juice rewards for glancing at either a neutral target on a computer screen or images of other monkeys. By systematically varying the juice rewards and the images -- including a gray square, higher-ranking or lower-ranking monkeys and female hindquarters -- the researchers could precisely measure how much reward a monkey would "pay" to see which images.

The researchers found that the monkeys would forego a significant amount of reward to see an image of a higher-ranking monkey or of female hindquarters. In contrast, the monkeys had to be "paid" more juice to view lower-ranking monkeys.

The research was sponsored by The National Institute of Mental Health and the Cure Autism Now Foundation. It will be published in the March 2005 issue of Current Biology

The aim of the study, said Platt, was to bring into a controlled laboratory setting the kinds of social judgments that monkeys were observed to make in the wild.

"Decades of studies of monkeys in the wild have indicated that they act as if they make judgments about dominance rankings and of the importance of other individuals for their own reproductive success," said Platt. "But there have been no real quantitative experimental demonstrations that monkeys actually process this information and use it in decision-making.

"More broadly, it's important to understand how the brain processes social information and uses it to make decisions," said Platt. "Historically, the problem of understanding social cognition, social evaluation and its neural basis has been a slippery one. And in part that's because scientists haven't been able to bring to bear the methods of experimental psychophysics to understand these phenomena.

"So, our approach, in which we ask the monkeys to, in a sense, put a number on how much juice they'd be willing to 'spend' to see a particular individual gives us an invaluable experimental system to explore the neural wiring that underlies social cognition."

Intriguingly, said Platt, the monkeys were not living in a colony where physical interactions could contribute to establishing dominance hierarchies or sexual relationships. "So, somehow, they are getting this information by observation -- by seeing other individuals interact," he said.

Such findings indicate that the researchers' methods could offer rich scientific dividends in understanding perception and the brain's social machinery, said Platt. This knowledge can likely be applied to human neural social machinery, he said.

"At the moment, it's only a tantalizing possibility, but we believe that similar processes are at work in these monkeys and in people. After all, the same kinds of social conditions have been important in primate evolution for both nonhuman primates and humans. So, in further experiments, we also want to try to establish in the same way how people attribute value to acquiring visual information about other individuals."

If such parallels exist, said Platt, electrophysiological, genetic and molecular studies of monkeys in such laboratory situations could yield important insight into the social machinery of the brain. Platt and his colleagues have already begun exploring the neural pathways in monkeys that govern the decision about shifting gaze to look at a target assigned a specific reward value.

Such studies could prove extremely important in understanding how the brain's social machinery malfunctions in autism, said Platt.

"One of the main problems in people with autism is that they don't find it very motivating to look at other individuals," he said. "And even when they do, they can't seem to assess information about that individual's importance, intentions or expressions.

"So, what we now have with these monkeys is an excellent model for how social motivation for looking is processed in normal individuals. And, it's a model that we can use to explore the neurophysiological mechanisms of those motivations in a way we can't do in humans. For example, we can use drugs that affect specific neural processes to explore whether we can mimic some of the deficits found in autism in these animals."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Duke University Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Duke University Medical Center. "Monkey "Pay-Per-View" Study Could Aid Understanding Of Autism." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 January 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050128213439.htm>.
Duke University Medical Center. (2005, January 29). Monkey "Pay-Per-View" Study Could Aid Understanding Of Autism. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050128213439.htm
Duke University Medical Center. "Monkey "Pay-Per-View" Study Could Aid Understanding Of Autism." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050128213439.htm (accessed November 27, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Reuters - Entertainment Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) The iconic piano from "Casablanca" and the Cowardly Lion suit from "The Wizard of Oz" fetch millions at auction. Sara Hemrajani reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) Researchers in the United States are preparing to discover whether a drug commonly used in human organ transplants can extend the lifespan and health quality of pet dogs. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) The US FDA is announcing new calorie rules on Tuesday that will require everywhere from theaters to vending machines to include calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 25, 2014) Take a stab at this -- stunt video shows a lamb chop's journey from an east London restaurant over 30 kilometers into space. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins