Opioids and attachment in rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) abusive mothers

Behav Neurosci. 2002 Jun;116(3):489-93. doi: 10.1037//0735-7044.116.3.489.


This study investigated the role of the endogenous opioid system in maternal and affiliative behavior of group-living rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) mothers with a history of abusive parenting. Eighteen mothers received an injection of the opioid antagonist naltrexone or saline for 5 days per week for the first 4 weeks of the infant's life. After treatment, mother-infant pairs were focally observed. Naltrexone did not significantly affect infant abuse or other measures of maternal behavior. Naltrexone increased the amount of grooming received by mothers from other group members and reduced the mothers' rate of displacement activities such as scratching, yawning, and self-grooming. These results concur with previous primate studies in suggesting that opioids mediate the rewarding effects of receiving grooming and affect anxiety-related behaviors.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / drug effects
  • Aggression / physiology*
  • Aggression / psychology
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Female
  • Grooming / drug effects
  • Grooming / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Mothers* / psychology
  • Narcotic Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Narcotics / pharmacology
  • Object Attachment*
  • Opioid Peptides / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Opioid Peptides / physiology*


  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Narcotics
  • Opioid Peptides