There are vast individual differences in how individuals respond to stressful situations. Some individuals are sensitive to such stress, responding with an increased incidence of emotional problems or psychopathologies such as anxiety and depression, while others are resistant to the same stress. The recognition of individual differences in response to stress has sparked interest in the factors that may contribute to these differences. Biologically determined variables as well as environmental factors, have been associated with differential stress response.
Kristine Coleman and colleagues are interested in why some individuals are more prone to stress related problems than others. They have examined how early experience, biological factors (e.g., temperament and specific serotonin transporter gene polymorphisms), and environmental factors (e.g., social status) interact to modulate vulnerability or resilience to various consequences of stress using young monkeys living in a naturalistic environment as their model. Knowing how these factors interact can help identify individuals at risk for the development of stress-related problems.
Coleman and colleagues also study ways to reduce stress and improve psychological well-being for laboratory primates. For example, positive reinforcement training (PRT), a type of training in which subjects voluntarily cooperate with veterinary, husbandry and research procedures such as remaining still for blood draws or injections, reduces stress associated with these procedures. The Coleman lab found that PRT also reduces the occurrence of stereotypical behavior in rhesus macaques. However, not every animal benefits from such training, and there is a great deal of variation among individuals with respect to their ability to be trained. Temperament and environmental factors (such as the presence of a conspecific) can affect training success. This information can help us provide care for laboratory primates that is geared towards the individual, as opposed to using a one size fits all approach.
Kristine Coleman is an affiliate assistant scientist in the Divisions of Reproductive & Developmental Sciences and Neuroscience. After receiving her BS in biology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1988, she earned her Ph.D. in behavioral ecology from Binghamton University in 1995. She came to the ONPRC in 1996 as a postdoctoral fellow. She conducted behavioral endocrinology research at ONPRC and in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, and in 2001 returned to the Primate Center full time to oversee the Behavioral Services Unit in the Division of Animal Resources.
Coleman K. (2011) Caring for non-human primates in biomedical research facilities: scientific, moral and emotional considerations. Am. J. Primatol. 73, 220-225.
Coleman K, Robertson ND, Bethea CL. (2011) Long-term ovariectomy alters social and anxious behaviors in semi-free ranging Japanese macaques. Behav. Brain Res. 225, 317-327.
Coleman K, Bloomsmith MA, Crockett C, Weed JL, Schapiro SJ. (in press). Behavioral Management, Enrichment, and Psychological Well-Being of Laboratory Nonhuman Primates. Nonhuman Primates in Biomedical Research (Eds. Abee, Mansfield, Tardif, and Morris).
Coleman K. Individual differences in temperament and behavioral management practices for nonhuman primates. (In press) Appl. Anim. Beh. Sci, 2012. Moore K. Unexpected causes of aggression in socially housed rhesus macaques: It isn't always what you think. In press, TechTalk.
See a full listing of Dr. Coleman's publications.