, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 345–357

Dissociation of cortisol and behavioral indicators of stress in an orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) during a computerized task


DOI: 10.1007/BF02629625

Cite this article as:
Elder, C.M. & Menzel, C.R. Primates (2001) 42: 345. doi:10.1007/BF02629625


Computerized testing can induce behavioral signs of frustration in apes. Three variations of a computer task were used to investigate the effects of inter-trial intervals and rate of cursor movement on frustrative behavior and cortisol in an orangutan. Behaviors were recorded during test sessions, and saliva was collected immediately after test sessions for cortisol assay. Behavioral results indicated that extended (20 sec) periods of delay between trials induced signs of frustration in the subject, including forceful manual manipulation of objects and self-scratching. However, cortisol results indicated that Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis activity was not induced by task performance. Rather, cortisol levels were reduced during performance of computer tasks compared to baseline levels. Findings from this study suggest that behavioral and cortisol responses to stress induced by performance of computer testing can become dissociated. This study validates salivary cortisol as a measure of HPA activity in apes and demonstrates a normal circadian rhythm of cortisol release in an orangutan.

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© Japan Monkey Centre 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NeurologyEmory University School of MedicineAtlantaU. S. A.
  2. 2.Language Research CenterGeorgia State UniversityDecaturU. S. A.