UW–Madison psychiatry professor Ned Kalin treats people who suffer from anxiety disorders and studies the causes and mechanisms of those disorders. Abnormal levels of anxiety in childhood can increase the risk of mental illness in adolescents and adults, with consequences as dire as suicide — the world’s leading cause of violent death.
Research by Kalin and colleagues has shown that brain alterations in young rhesus monkeys contribute to abnormal anxiety. Their work has identified specific parts of the brain contributing to anxiety problems, and demonstrated that anxiety issues can be inherited. Kalin’s research incorporates human and rhesus monkeys. The two have similar brain structures, biology, and responses to stress, making monkeys an important way to study and better understand the fundamental causes of psychiatry disorders.
The images below were taken by staff at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center in May of 2014 at the request of a journalist who toured the center while reporting on Kalin’s work. The images depict several rhesus monkeys (like those that have helped inform Kalin’s research) and some of the housing and different facilities at the primate center.
These images reflect aspects of animal care and housing that are joint efforts of the scientists conducting research, behavioral management, and veterinary clinical staff to balance the needs of the animals with the aims of the research. Animals ranging from infant to adult are shown in their regular housing and in specially designed play enclosures. The current clinical nursery — in which infants rejected by their mothers are raised — is shown, with pictures of the incubator and two very young monkeys playing together.
Although the monkeys housed at the Primate Research Center participate in different research projects, all receive daily care, enrichment, and oversight of their clinical and behavioral welfare by veterinarians and by behaviorists. Like the other national primate centers funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Primate Research Center has a division charged with veterinary care and a division charged with behavioral management, environmental enrichment, and animal welfare assessment.
The veterinary services staff provides expert clinical care to meet the physical health needs of the center’s diverse primate colony. Veterinary staff directs the daily care, feeding, and husbandry of center animals, also engaging in health testing, vaccinations, and treatment of any injuries. Veterinarians are also responsible for the procedures, housing, and daily oversight of the clinical nursery in which infant monkeys may be raised.
The Primate Research Center’s behavioral management team directs efforts to promote psychological well-being for the colony. As part of this work, for example, animals are provided with environmental enrichment that includes opportunities for cognitive engagement via toys and puzzles, as well as fresh fruit, vegetables and other varied foods via foraging puzzles. The behavioral management team is also charged with socialization of the monkey colony, facilitating and maintaining compatible social pairs and groups of monkeys. Cognitive engagement, exercise opportunities, and socialization are promoted by continuing movement towards new forms of housing and caging, some of which is shown below. The behavioral management team also advises the clinical nursery veterinary and care staff in order to provide specialty expertise for the cognitive, motor, and social needs of infant monkeys as they develop.
The clinical nursery exists to provide for the care and developmental needs of infant primates that are ill, or that are rejected by their mothers. The first priority for care of these animals is to make sure that they are healthy. Thus, in the first month of life, it is critical to monitor temperature regulation, feeding and normal body functions. Attempts are made to reintroduce healthy infants to their mothers — or to foster mothers, if one is available. If these efforts are not successful, and an infant must remain in the nursery, it is paired with an age-mate peer.
As the infants mature, their motor, perceptual and social development are ensured through a variety of efforts guided by many decades of scientific research and best practices developed to promote normal development. Perceptual, cognitive, and social development is promoted with play cage sessions in which they interact with other monkeys in a play environment that contains colorful toy and climbing structures. The monkeys’ nutritional and medical needs, as well as human contact, are provided by daily care and interaction by dedicated nursery staff who feed, monitor, clean, and care for the infants.
Infant monkeys play together with balls and toys in play pens outfitted with swings and other structures to provide for social well-being, cognitive engagement, and exploration opportunities.