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Author Notes:

Corresponding author: Katherine Reding, Division of Developmental & Cognitive Neuroscience, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, 954 Gatewood Rd., Atlanta, GA 30329. Telephone: 404-772-9420 Fax: 404-727-8088 kreding@emory.edu



  • estradiol
  • sexual behavior
  • affiliation
  • social subordination
  • rhesus monkeys

Social status modifies estradiol activation of sociosexual behavior in female rhesus monkeys


Journal Title:

Hormones and Behavior


Volume 62, Number 5


, Pages 612-620

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review


Estrogen (E2) has activational effects on sexual motivation and mitigating effects on anxiety-like behaviors that can be attenuated with chronic exposure to psychosocial stress. Some studies suggest that this attenuation can be overcome by higher doses of E2, while others show that chronic psychosocial stress may alter the mechanisms of E2 function, thus reducing any positive benefit from higher doses of E2. To determine the interaction between psychosocial stress and E2 dose on behavior, we examined the scope of attenuation across a suite of socioemotional behaviors, including reproduction, affiliation, aggression, submission, and anxiety-like behaviors on 36 ovariectomized female rhesus monkeys. Females were exposed to graded psychosocial stress, established by an intrinsic female dominance hierarchy, where subordinate animals receive high amounts of harassment. Our data show that E2 dose-dependently increased sexual motivation and male-affiliation in dominant (e.g. low-stress) females, while subordinate females showed no positive effects of E2, even at higher doses. In addition, contact aggression was attenuated in dominant females, while non-contact aggression was attenuated in both dominant and middle-ranking females. These results suggest that the stress-induced attenuation of E2's activational effects on sexual behavior and affiliation with males may not be overcome with higher doses of E2. Furthermore, the observed behavioral consequences of psychosocial stress and E2 dose may be dependent on the behaviors of all the females in the social-group, and better resolution on these effects depends on isolating treatment to individuals within the group to minimize alterations in social-group interactions.

Copyright information:

© 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

This is an Open Access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

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