Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period

5-2-2015

Degree Program

Neuroscience & Behavior

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded

2015

Month Degree Awarded

May

Advisor Name

Melinda

Advisor Middle Initial

A

Advisor Last Name

Novak

Abstract

Previous studies completed with humans have revealed insight into the effects of anxiety on attention tasks such the dot-probe task, but there is little information about such effects on non-human primates. This study aimed to assess whether anxiety or anxious behaviors would impact rhesus macaque performance on a three stimuli paradigm similar to the dot-probe task. Utilizing images of conspecifics (strong threat, mild threat, and neutral), eight monkeys were video recorded completing a task that required them to slide two doors, which held these images, to the side to obtain a treat. We hypothesized that behavioral phenotype (high or low anxiety) would affect attention on this modified dot-probe task. Additionally, we predicted that time spent looking at mildly threatening stimuli would be positively correlated with high levels of anxious behaviors (e.g., scratching, yawning, pacing, self-biting) and cortisol concentrations over a four month period. We also predicted that a higher percentage of the mildly threating stimuli as a first choice would be positively correlated with high levels of anxious behaviors and cortisol concentrations. However, anxious behaviors and cortisol concentrations did not affect performance on this task. Interestingly, a sex difference was found for the mild threat stimuli, with females taking significantly more time to complete the task when presented with the mild stimuli (p = 0.01), and also looking at the mild stimuli longer than males (p = 0.03). These data suggest that males and females interpret ambiguous facial expressions differently, possibly indicating the significance of attention in female dominance hierarchies in macaque social groups.

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