Monkeys socially down the ladder prefer cocaine to food

April 7th, 2008 - 11:26 am ICT by admin  

New York, April 7 (IANS) It is low self-esteem and lack of social standing that drives people to drugs - at least that is what a new study on monkeys has found. The study, by Wake Forest University researchers, found that simians stressed by a lower social standing were likely to prefer cocaine to food. Also, dominant monkeys were less likely to choose cocaine.

Findings of the study were presented Sunday at a conference on experimental biology in San Diego.

Male cynomolgus monkeys live in a social structure where hierarchy is established by aggression and maintained by clear signals - sometimes just a meaningful look.

Researchers subjected four dominant and four subordinate simians to a socially stressful situation in which they were taken out of home cages and placed in unfamiliar cages surrounded by four unfamiliar animals.

The scan of the individual monkey’s brain during the stressful situation was compared to earlier scans made when the animal had spent time simply sitting in his own familiar home cage without stress.

The brains of dominant and subordinate monkeys responded differently in both situations. In the normal situation of sitting in their home cage, subordinate ones displayed less activity than did the dominant counterparts.

After the 40 minutes in the unfamiliar cage, each monkey could also choose between pressing a lever that they knew delivered cocaine or one that they knew delivered a food reward.

The subordinate monkey was more likely to choose cocaine than the dominant monkey.

These differences offer clues to the social context of drug use and addiction in humans, say the researchers.

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