Lauren J.N. Brent

Dartmouth Events

Lauren J.N. Brent

Lauren J.N. Brent - Genetics of social network position in the rhesus macaques of Cayo Santiago

Thursday, September 29, 2011
4:00pm-5:00pm
317 Silsby Hall
Intended Audience(s): Public
Categories:
Lauren is Postoctoral Associate at the Center for Cognitive. In human and nonhuman primates alike, social behavior varies considerably between individuals, yet the genetic, neural and evolutionary basis of this heterogeneity remains poorly understood. The aim of my research is to determine genetic contributions to variation in social behavior and cognition in rhesus macaques living in a naturalistic setting on Cayo Santiago Island, Puerto Rico. This well-characterized free-ranging population provides a unique model for probing the relationship between social behaviors and genetics. Together with colleagues at Duke University and collaborators at Yale University and the University of Puerto Rico, I initially have focused on two questions. First, is sociality heritable and, if so, is this variation associated with genes previously linked to behavioral phenotypes in humans and captive primates? I use quantitative genetics and detailed pedigree data to estimate the heritability of social network position in 87 adult rhesus macaques from one social group. Next, I explore the association between sociality and length-polymorphisms in the serotonergic pathway. Using four social network measures, individuals. positions within the aggression and affiliation (i.e. grooming and spatial proximity) networks were shown to demonstrate significant additive genetic variation and are thus heritable. This variation may be partly explained by serotonergic polymorphisms. Rhesus macaques with high-functioning serotonergic alleles had significantly higher grooming network scores than individuals with low-functioning alleles. As one of the first large-scale studies to examine behavior-genetic associations in a free-ranging primate, these results support the assumption that sociality has been shaped by selection acting on heritable variation and point to a potentially fundamental role of the serotonin pathway in the evolution of sociality in primates.
Center for Cognitive Neuroscience
For more information, contact:
Therese Perin-Deville
603-646-3256

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