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A new look at neurobehavioral development in rhesus monkey neonates (Macaca mulatta)

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The Brazelton Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale (NBAS) evaluates a newborn infant's autonomic, motor, state, temperament, and social-attentional systems, which can help to identify infants at risk of developmental problems. Given the prevalence of rhesus monkeys being used as an animal model for human development, here we aimed to validate a standardized test battery modeled after the NBAS for use with nonhuman primates called the Infant Behavioral Assessment Scale (IBAS), employing exploratory structural equation modeling using a large sample of rhesus macaque neonates (n = 1,056). Furthermore, we examined the repeated assessments of the common factors within the same infants to describe any changes in performance over time, taking into account two independent variables (infant sex and rearing condition) that can potentially affect developmental outcomes. Results revealed three factors (Orientation, State Control, and Motor Activity) that all increased over the 1st month of life. While infant sex did not have an effect on any factor, nursery-rearing led to higher scores on Orientation but lower scores on State Control and Motor Activity. These results validate the IBAS as a reliable and valuable research tool for use with rhesus macaque infants and suggest that differences in rearing conditions can affect developmental trajectories and potentially pre-expose infants to heightened levels of cognitive and emotional deficiencies.

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