There is substantial interest in understanding the role that early life conditions and subsequent life environments play in determining: adult aging, health, socioeconomic outcomes, personality and cognition. Also of interest is understanding the effects that personality and cognition have on health, aging and socioeconomic outcomes. There is also great interest in understanding possible avenues of compensation, remediation and resilience in these areas. Mechanisms of human development rooted in biology, psychology and the environment are essential to designing policies that promote health, reduce inequality, and develop human potential. A proper study of these mechanisms requires detailed life cycle information on genes, environments and biology. When examined across generations, one can better examine the effects of family influence, and the role of environments in ameliorating or exacerbating initial endowments. Even for a study of humans within a generation, the requisite data are scarce;intergenerational data are even more fragmentary. Experimental evidence for humans is also limited. Rhesus monkeys are genetically and socially similar to humans. Rich data has been collected on rhesus monkeys and their environments, between and across generations, which will be used for this project. Furthermore, this project will generate new data from a variety of interventions. With these data, it is possible to study the evolution of rhesus capabilities and to examine the role of deprivation and remediation in life cycle development. Within limits dictated by animal rights protocols, this project will engineer adverse early and adolescent environments. The project will utilize numerous measures of biology (health), cognition and personality for monkeys sampled over five intervals of the rhesus life cycles and performs a variety of environmental interventions Analyses of these data will reveal new empirical relationships and a deeper, biologically-based understanding of the origins and development of capabilities in an animal species close to humans. Cutting-edge methodology will be used with this data to conduct gene analysis developed for human populations on these rhesus monkey populations. The project will analyze how social factors regulate gene expression in a dynamic setting and in particular which sets of genes are sensitive to social influences, how these influences are transduced into the molecular environment of the cell, and how inherent genetic characteristics might modulate socio-environmental influences. These data will be analyzed using a dynamic econometric model of life cycle skill formation that will guide the formulation of policy analysis for humans. An analysis of rhesus monkeys will serve as a prototype for what is possible in the study of human development.

Public Health Relevance

This proposal seeks support to investigate the origins of inequality in health and other social and economic outcomes and mechanisms to alleviate inequality. Current studies of inequality in human populations lack firm biological and experimental grounding, but rhesus monkeys share approximately 95% of their genes with humans and possess functionally similar polymorphisms in several genes linked to emotional regulation. Because of these similarities, this project can use experimental research on rhesus monkey populations to investigate the origins of inequality, the mechanisms that foster resilience to adversity, and the efficacy of interventions that compensate or remediate adversity.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZAG1-ZIJ-7 (M1))
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Gerald, Melissa S
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National Opinion Research Center
United States
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