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Access Type

Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

Document Type


Degree Program

Neuroscience & Behavior

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Prenatal stress has been correlated with adverse developmental outcomes affecting infant cognition and behavior. Previous studies have shown that prenatal stress can lead to increased susceptibility to adult disease but few studies have looked at the physiological stress response system by measuring the activity of the hypothalamicpituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Cortisol, the output of the HPA axis can be secreted in many different matrices (saliva, blood, urine, feces and hair). Most studies that do, only look at one measure of hormone production instead of examining multiple matrices. Additionally these studies do not look at the relationship between matrices. Hair provides a long-term assessment of cortisol hormone production as related to infant behavior. Four measures of cortisol representative of prenatal and postpartum periods were collected in a sample population of rhesus macaques at the NIH facility. No stress was applied to these animals and cortisol concentrations were assessed in maternal hair, infant hair, amniotic fluid, and mothers’ milk. These cortisol measures were then analyzed first to determine vii the relationships between the four measures and second to relate these cortisol values to infant behavior in the primate neonatal neurobehavioral assessment. Subjects of this study were 30 mothers and infants from the 2015 and 2016 breeding cohort. 25 of which, were unique dyads. Using four statistical analyses and 3 groupings of behavior, we found that maternal hair cortisol concentrations were correlated with different temperaments of infants, while milk cortisol concentrations were correlated with infant’s visual exploration of the environment. Additionally, an inverse relationship was found between hair cortisol concentrations and both hair cortisol concentrations with amniotic fluid cortisol. Together, the four statistical analyses show that Maternal HPA axis activation during and after pregnancy affects infant behavioral development 1 month postpartum.


First Advisor

Jerrold Meyer

Second Advisor

Melinda Novak

Third Advisor

Agnes Lacreuse

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License