Early environments that developing organisms encounter during ontogeny have profound and persistent effects throughout life. In human offspring, variation in early family environments and gestational endocrine environments can profoundly shape multiple biosocial parameters, including sociality and behavior, stress reactivity, pubertal timing, and later parental style. We will examine the impact of early environments on development in a marmoset model that is relevant to human development. Marmoset development occurs in a family system, with multiple caregivers providing qualitatively and quantitatively different forms of care. Further, mothers often conceive immediately postpartum, leading to elevated maternal steroid hormones (including androgens) that can impact both developing fetuses (via placental transfer) and nursing offspring (via milk-borne steroids), a condition often found in human females (e.g., polycystic ovarian syndrome). In addition, female marmosets also exhibit elevated and varying levels of glucocorticoid hormones during pregnancy, suggesting that offspring may be differentially affected. The studies described in this application will address 3 aims: 1) Does variation in early care produce phenotypic variation in behavioral, physiological, and parental care?;2) How is behavioral, somatic, and reproductive development shaped by pre- and postnatal exogenous steroids in marmosets?;and 3) does variation in gestational exposure to glucocorticoid hormone alter developmental trajectories, particularly in the stress system and somatic development? Using an established colony of marmosets, we will evaluate the links between early care received by marmosets and later parental care toward their own offspring. Secondly, we will look for associations among maternal androgens during gestation and during lactation (including concentrations in milk) and subsequent biobehavioral parameters. Finally, we will monitor cortisol responses to a standardized psychosocial stressor to evaluate whether exposure to high fetal glucocorticoids programs marmosets to be stress-responsive.

Public Health Relevance

Differences in early uterine and postnatal social environments predispose developing offspring toward characteristics that have health relevance (e.g., pubertal timing, stress reactivity, sociality). These projects will assess the impact of early environments on biosocial development in marmosets, a species with many similarities to human sociality and biology.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Biobehavioral Regulation, Learning and Ethology Study Section (BRLE)
Program Officer
Freund, Lisa S
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University of Nebraska Omaha
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Taylor, Jack H; Mustoe, Aaryn C; French, Jeffrey A (2014) Behavioral responses to social separation stressor change across development and are dynamically related to HPA activity in marmosets. Am J Primatol 76:239-48
Cavanaugh, Jon; Mustoe, Aaryn C; Taylor, Jack H et al. (2014) Oxytocin facilitates fidelity in well-established marmoset pairs by reducing sociosexual behavior toward opposite-sex strangers. Psychoneuroendocrinology 49:1-10
French, Jeffrey A; Smith, Kevin B; Alford, John R et al. (2014) Cortisol and politics: variance in voting behavior is predicted by baseline cortisol levels. Physiol Behav 133:61-7
Mustoe, Aaryn C; Taylor, Jack H; Birnie, Andrew K et al. (2014) Gestational cortisol and social play shape development of marmosets' HPA functioning and behavioral responses to stressors. Dev Psychobiol 56:1229-43
Henry, MaLinda D; Hankerson, Sarah J; Siani, Jennifer M et al. (2013) High rates of pregnancy loss by subordinates leads to high reproductive skew in wild golden lion tamarins (Leontopithecus rosalia). Horm Behav 63:675-83
Cavanaugh, Jon; French, Jeffrey A (2013) Post-partum variation in the expression of paternal care is unrelated to urinary steroid metabolites in marmoset fathers. Horm Behav 63:551-8
Birnie, Andrew K; Taylor, Jack H; Cavanaugh, Jon et al. (2013) Quality of maternal and paternal care predicts later stress reactivity in the cooperatively-breeding marmoset (Callithrix geoffroyi). Psychoneuroendocrinology 38:3003-14
French, Jeffrey A; Smith, Adam S; Birnie, Andrew K (2010) Maternal gestational androgen levels in female marmosets (Callithrix geoffroyi) vary across trimesters but do not vary with the sex ratio of litters. Gen Comp Endocrinol 165:309-14
Van Meter, Page E; French, Jeffrey A; Bidali, Kaisa et al. (2008) Non-invasive measurement of fecal estrogens in the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta). Gen Comp Endocrinol 155:464-71
Allison, Sarah O; Halliday, Lisa C; French, Jeffrey A et al. (2007) Assessment of buprenorphine, carprofen, and their combination for postoperative analgesia in olive baboons (Papio anubis). J Am Assoc Lab Anim Sci 46:24-31

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