Carol A. Shively, PhD
Professor of Pathology (Comparative Medicine) and Psychology (Wake Forest University)
Associate in Physiology & Pharmacology; Assistant Director, Diversity: Wake Forest University Primate Center (WFUPC)
Women's Health, Primate Behavioral Biology, Social Stress and Depression: Opportunities for research are in the general area of the role of social stress in disease susceptibility in nonhuman primates. Much of our work has addressed sex differences and women's health issues. Social status, social isolation and novel environments are some of the stressors that are being examined. Individual differences in behavioral, sympathetic nervous system, and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal responsivity to stress are being assessed. Evaluations of pathologic responses to social factors include atherosclerosis, coronary vasomotor reactivity, bone density and biochemistry, breast cancer risk, depression, lipid and carbohydrate metabolism, body composition and regional fat distribution measured with DEXA and CT, metabolic syndrome, and immune system function. In addition, PET, MRI, MRS, quantitative receptor autoradiography, unbiased stereology, gene expression and protein level determinations are used to assess the effects of stress on brain function, and the depressed brain, and the National Institute of Mental Health.
Two current areas of research include social inequalities in health and modeling the comorbidity of coronary heart disease and depression in a primate model. Social inequalties in health are widely recognized to contribute to the global burden of disease. It is is critical for us to understand how low social status is translated into illness. Like human beings, a central organizing mechanism of macaque society is the social status hierarchy. Also like human beings, many aspects of health are inversely related to social status in macaques, and we are studying these relationships. Two diseases inversely related to social status in human beings are coronary heart disease (CHD) and depressive disorders. Depression and CHD are highly comorbid in the human population. CHD patients who experience depression after their first myocardial infarction (heart attack) are 4-6 times more likely to die of a second heart attack in the next 18 months. The mechanisms underlying this comorbidity are poorly understood. With funding from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and theNational Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health we are currently studying this comorbidity in monkeys, and will treat depression pharmacologically to determine whether that improves CHD risk.
Figure 1: An alert monkey compared with a monkey in depressed posture. These photographs were taken by the same photographer at approximately the same distance from each monkey. The nondepressed monkey was alert and orienting toward the photographer (a potential threat), whereas the depressed monkey seemed oblivious to the presence of a human being. The depressed monkey was sitting in a slumped or collapsed body posture, with open eyes directed downward, and was unresponsive to environmental events.
Link to PubMed Database