Emotional Eating in Socially Subordinate Female Rhesus Monkeys

  • Vasiliki MichopoulosEmail author
Part of the Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospects book series (DIPR)


Prolonged states of energy excess result in obesity and increase risk for an array of other adverse health outcomes. The increase in rates of obesity in the last decade has been linked to emotional eating that arises from the accessibility of highly palatable diets under the conditions of chronic psychosocial stress exposure. Thus, understanding factors that contribute to an obese phenotype is critical for identifying novel interventional targets that alleviate the health burden imposed by obesity and obesity-related adverse health outcomes. One translational animal model that has been leveraged to study the adverse health effects of chronic stressor exposure is that of social subordination in socially housed female macaques. Uncontrollable, unpredictable psychogenic stress exposure in the form of harassment from higher-ranking animals within a social group is associated with increased caloric intake in a dietary environment wherein both a low-calorie diet (LCD) and a calorically dense diet (CDD), high in fat and sugar, are available. This emotional eating phenotype in subordinate monkeys is comorbid with dysregulation of the stress axis and the reward system. More recent studies have shown that pharmacological blockade of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) activity attenuates emotional eating in subordinate females and also increases limbic levels of dopamine D2 receptors (D2R). Together, these data suggest that stress-induced hyperphagia in subordinates is sustained by stress-induced changes in mesolimbic D2R levels. Future investigations studying the effects of social subordination in macaques will focus on delineating the effects of chronic psychosocial stress exposure and access to a CDD throughout development to adversely impact biobehavioral outcomes related to health.


Emotional Eating Cortisol Reactivity Dominant Female Obese Phenotype Subordinate Female 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to thank Jennifer Whitley, Angela Tripp, Brandon Hughes, Shannon Bounar, Jodi Godfrey, Christine Marsteller, Jonathon Lowe, Patrick Ulam, Rebecca Herman, Robert Johnston and Gregory Henry for their expert technical assistance in conducting the feeding studies summarized in the current chapter. We also thank Drs. Mark Wilson, Donna Toufexis, Zachary Johnson, and Carla Moore for helping shape our understanding of the relationship between stressor exposure and emotional eating. These studies would not have been possible without the dedication of the animal husbandry staff at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center (YNPRC) and support by NIH grants HD46501, MH081816, RR00165, and F31MH085445. Further support was provided by the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience through the STC Program of the National Science Foundation IBN-9876754. The YNPRC is fully accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International.


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesEmory University School of Medicine, Yerkes National Primate Research CenterAtlantaUSA

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