Cerebral glucose metabolism, CSF 5-HIAA levels, and aggressive behavior in rhesus monkeys

Am J Psychiatry. 1995 Dec;152(12):1782-7. doi: 10.1176/ajp.152.12.1782.


Objective: Considerable evidence suggests that low concentrations of 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) in CSF are associated with a history of aggressive behavior in both human and nonhuman primates. The purpose of this investigation was to examine the relationships among CSF 5-HIAA concentration, history of aggressive behavior, and cerebral glucose metabolism in a group of nonhuman primates whose CSF 5-HIAA had been sampled several times over the preceding 2 years and whose social behavior had been observed since birth.

Method: The subjects were nine adult male rhesus monkeys studied under isoflurane anesthesia. Cerebral glucose utilization was measured by [18F]fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography. Aggressiveness ratings were made by a primatologist who had had frequent contact with the animals over several years.

Results: There was a significant negative correlation between ratings of aggressive behavior and CSF 5-HIAA concentrations. There was also a negative correlation between the dose of pentobarbital required to induce anesthesia and level of CSF 5-HIAA. Moreover, there were significant negative correlations between CSF 5-HIAA levels and both whole brain glucose utilization and regional glucose utilization in the orbital-frontal cortex.

Conclusions: These results suggest that both increased aggressiveness and low concentrations of CSF 5-HIAA are associated with higher brain glucose metabolism in rhesus monkeys under standardized anesthesia. Aggressive nonhuman primates with low CSF 5-HIAA concentrations may have "innate" tolerance toward functional gamma-aminobutyric acid A receptor agonists such as pentobarbital, isoflurane, and possibly alcohol.

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Animals
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Deoxyglucose / analogs & derivatives
  • Drug Tolerance / genetics
  • Ethanol / pharmacology
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Isoflurane / pharmacology
  • Macaca mulatta / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Macaca mulatta / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Pentobarbital / pharmacology
  • Receptors, GABA / drug effects
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed


  • Receptors, GABA
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Ethanol
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid
  • Deoxyglucose
  • Isoflurane
  • Pentobarbital
  • Glucose