Dr. Steve Suomi : Applications on the Human Level

Uploaded by NIHOD on 26.11.2012

The more you watch these monkeys, the more interested
you get in them, and the more things that you see, the closer you look.
Not only in terms of their external behavior, but also their
relationships with one another. Their friendship patterns, their dominance
hierarchies, and the biological characteristics that underlie
them, and ultimately some genetic differences as well.
This type of situation allows the monkeys
to show us what they are capable of doing. This established complex social
relationship show dramatic changes developmentally that are accompanied
by changes in their hormonal levels, in their metabolism patterns
as well. And, we can look to
see whether at least some of these patterns, at the level of general principle
are replicated in parallel studies going on
with human children growing up in different social and physical settings.
Rhesus monkeys are not furry little humans with tails, they're members of another
albeit closely related species, and you have to be careful about making direct
comparisons on a point by point basis between rhesus and humans.
But by studying development in this species in which
it's accelerated relative to humans, and in circumstances where
we can control many aspects of their environment, we can derive general
principles that almost certainly apply to the human case.
One principle is the importance of early social experience,
how differences in the kind of relationship you have
with your mother, or a substitute mother can affect not only your behavior,
but your biology, and we now know, even your gene expression.
What happens when you move from one social situation like,
a world that's basically centered around your mother and kin,
and start expanding your social arena, to start including peers,
individuals from other families, where relationships have to be negotiated,
where differences that were not so
important when they were with their mother, suddenly become very important in terms of
developing social skills. Are there ways that you can
take individuals who are somewhat socially incompetent, and get them
back up to speed, so that they can compete, in the complex world that constitutes
a rhesus monkey social environment? When you do that,
what are the biological consequences? And what are the consequences in terms of gene
expression? This kind of situation, and this kind of setup
allows us to address those questions, and hopefully
the results that we get, and the principles
that we derive will have important
implications and applications at the human level.