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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program

Neuroscience & Behavior

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Self-injurious behavior (SIB) is a complex phenotype that occurs with an increasing prevalence of about 7-34% in humans and 10-12% in non-human primates (NHPs). This study evaluated the efficacy of probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri as a treatment for self-injurious behavior (SIB) and sleep disruption in rhesus macaques. The treatment was proposed to alleviate mild self-biting, sleep disruption, and reduce chronically elevated hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis activity, all hallmark features of monkeys with this condition. The probiotic preparation included two strains of L. reuteri (L. reuteri ATCC PTA 6475 & L. reuteri DSM 17938) containing on average 200 million colony forming units per chewable tablet. The study was conducted on 14 rhesus macaque monkeys (9 males) housed at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. To our knowledge this is the first time that a Lactobacillus strain has been used as a treatment for SIB in rhesus macaques. This study utilizes motion-activated infrared camera technology, modified enzyme-immunosorbent-assays (EIAs) techniques to measure hair cortisol concentrations, and daily behavioral observations to provide an overall assessment of the behavioral, physiological, and sleep associated implications of probiotic treatment on SIB and control non-human primates (NHPs). Administration of L reuteri modestly decreased biting behavior in monkeys with SIB (F(2,12) = 5.64, p= 0.02) and showed overall decrease in nighttime activity across all subjects but did not normalize SIB to nonSIB values. Hair cortisol values are pending. These findings and the findings of previous work further strengthen the argument for probiotics as an efficacious treatment for SIB behavior.


First Advisor

Melinda Novak

Second Advisor

Jerold Meyer

Third Advisor

Agnès Lacreuse