Intrinsic anticipatory motives in non-human primate food consumption behavior

iScience. 2024 Mar 8;27(4):109459. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2024.109459. eCollection 2024 Apr 19.


Future-oriented behavior is regarded as a cornerstone of human cognition. One key phenomenon through which future orientation can be studied is the delay of gratification, when consumption of an immediate reward is withstood to achieve a larger reward later. The delays used in animal delay of gratification paradigms are rather short to be considered relevant for studying human-like future orientation. Here, for the first time, we show that rhesus macaques exhibit human-relevant future orientation downregulating their operant food consumption in anticipation of a nutritionally equivalent but more palatable food with an unprecedentedly long delay of approximately 2.5 h. Importantly, this behavior is not a result of conditioning but intrinsic to the animals. Our results show that the cognitive time horizon of primates, when tested in ecologically valid foraging-like experiments, extends much further into the future than previously considered, opening up new avenues for translational biomedical research.

Keywords: Behavioral neuroscience; Biological sciences; Neuroscience.