Non-human primate models of childhood psychopathology: The promise and the limitations

Christopher J. Machado, Jocelyne Bachevalier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Scopus citations


Although non-human primate models have been used previously to investigate the neurobiology of several sensory and cognitive developmental pathologies, they have been employed only sparingly to study the etiology of childhood psychopathologies for which deficits in social behavior and emotion regulation are major symptoms. Previous investigations of both adult human and non-human primates have indicated that primate social behavior and emotion are regulated by a complex neural network, in which the amygdala and orbital frontal cortex play major roles. Therefore, this review will provide information generated from the study of macaque monkeys regarding the timing of normal social and emotional behavior development, the normal pattern of anatomical and functional maturation of the amygdala and orbital frontal cortex, as well as information regarding the neural and behavioral effects of early perturbations of these two neural structures. We will also highlight 'critical periods' of macaque development, during which major refinements in the behavioral repertoire appear to coincide with significant neural maturation of the amygdala and/or orbital frontal cortex. The identification of these 'critical periods' may allow one to better predict the specific behavioral impairments likely to appear after neonatal damage to one or both of these neural areas at different time points during development. This experimental approach may provide a new and important way to inform and stimulate research on childhood psychopathologies, such as autism, schizophrenia and Williams syndrome, in which the development of normal social skills and emotional regulation is severely perturbed. Finally, the promise and limitations inherent to the use of non-human primate models of childhood psychopathology will be discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-87
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Amygdala
  • Animal models
  • Autism
  • Critical periods
  • Williams syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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