A primate's early environment is shaped in large part by the behavior of the mother, and can have lifelong effects on health and development. Recent advances in the study of maternal behavior and infant outcome include: 1) identification of a number of genes that influence the initiation and maintenance of maternal behavior in rodents; 2) the recognition that hormonal influences on primate maternal behavior may be significant; and 3) the growing realization that the perinatal environment and maternal care can have long-term physiological and behavioral effects. The use of nonhuman primate models, however, has produced conflicting results due to differences in methodology and use of traditional study designs with sample sizes too small to assess multiple factors simultaneously. The current project will continue development of a baboon model that can facilitate better understanding of the diverse factors influencing maternal behavior and thereby provide avenues to improve maternal care and infant outcome. This project has already produced behavioral, hormonal and experiential data on over 180 female baboons. We have also obtained an entirely novel finding: preliminary results indicate that variation in several maternal behavior phenotypes (attentiveness toward the infant, stress-related behavior) is significantly influenced by genetic variation. In this renewal application, we propose to continue development of the model by studying an additional 200 mother-infant pairs. These new data will provide an adequate sample size for simultaneous consideration of multiple factors as they influence maternal behavior, detailed characterization of more subjects with subsequent infants, further elaboration of quantitative genetic analyses including consideration of the influence of the infant's genetics, and the first ever use of linkage analyses to begin mapping and identification of genes that influence maternal behavior in primates. We will continue collecting a broad range of behavioral data, but will emphasize maternal attentiveness, aberrant behavior and stress-related behavior. In this way, we will develop the necessary data for researchers to fully utilize the baboon model in studies of infant development, behavioral genetics, postpartum psychiatric disorders, infant abuse and neglect, and reproductive endocrinology. This project is cross-disciplinary in nature, with implications for psychiatry, child health and welfare, growth and development, women's health, and reproductive biology, and therefore does not fall within the categorical interest of a single institute or center of the NIH.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Center for Research Resources (NCRR)
Research Project (R01)
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National Center for Research Resources Initial Review Group (RIRG)
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Harding, John D
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Texas Biomedical Research Institute
San Antonio
United States
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