Project

Loneliness in rhesus monkeys

Goal: The goal of the project, which is a collaboration with Drs. John Cacioppo, Steve Cole, Louise Hawkley, and Stephanie Cacioppo, is to understand the biological mechanisms whereby loneliness confers risk for elevated morbidity and mortality.

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John P Capitanio
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Previous research has linked perceived social isolation (loneliness) to reduced antiviral immunity, but the immunologic effects of the objective social isolation imposed by pandemic “shelter in place” (SIP) policies is unknown. We assessed the immunologic impact of SIP by relocating 21 adult male rhesus macaques from 2,000-m ² field cage communities of 70 to 132 other macaques to 2 wk of individual housing in indoor shelters. SIP was associated with 30% to 50% reductions in all circulating immune cell populations (lymphocytes, monocytes, and granulocytes), down-regulation of Type I interferon (IFN) antiviral gene expression, and a relative up-regulation of CD16 ⁻ classical monocytes. These effects emerged within the first 48 h of SIP, persisted for at least 2 wk, and abated within 4 wk of return to social housing. A subsequent round of SIP in the presence of a novel juvenile macaque showed comparable reductions in circulating immune cell populations but reversal of Type I IFN reductions and classical monocyte increases observed during individual SIP. Analyses of lymph node tissues showed parallel up-regulation of Type I IFN genes and enhanced control of viral gene expression during juvenile-partnered SIP compared to isolated SIP. These results identify a significant adverse effect of SIP social isolation on antiviral immune regulation in both circulating immune cells and lymphoid tissues, and they suggest a potential behavioral strategy for ameliorating gene regulatory impacts (but not immune cell declines) by promoting prosocial engagement during SIP.
John P Capitanio
added an update
Our most recent paper: Capitanio, J.P., Cacioppo, S., Cole, S.W., 2019. Loneliness in monkeys: Neuroimmune mechanisms. Current Opinion in the Behavioral Sciences, 28:51-57, is available via an Elsevier sharelink until about 10 Oct 2019. Click on the link, and you should be able to download a copy of the paper. And check out some of the other papers in this special issue on psychoneuroimmunology.
 
John P Capitanio
added 11 research items
Social relationships endow health and fitness benefits, but considerable variation exists in the extent to which individuals form and maintain salutary social relationships. The mental and physical health effects of social bonds are more strongly related to perceived isolation (loneliness) than to objective social network characteristics. We sought to develop an animal model to facilitate the experimental analysis of the development of, and the behavioral and biological consequences of, loneliness. In Study 1, using a population-based sample of older adults, we examined how loneliness was influenced both by social network size and by the extent to which individuals believed that their daily social interactions reflected their own choice. Results revealed three distinct clusters of individuals: (i) individuals with large networks who believed they had high choice were lowest in loneliness, (ii) individuals with small social networks who believed they had low choice were highest in loneliness, and (iii) the remaining two groups were intermediate and equivalent in loneliness. In Study 2, a similar three-group structure was identified in two separate samples of adult male rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) living in large social groups: (i) those high in sociability who had complex social interaction with a broad range of social partners (putatively low in loneliness), (ii) those low in sociability who showed tentative interactions with certain classes of social partners (putatively high in loneliness), and (iii) those low in sociability who interacted overall at low levels with a broad range of social partners (putatively low or intermediate in loneliness). This taxonomy in monkeys was validated in subsequent experimental social probe studies. These results suggest that, in highly social nonhuman primate species, some animals may show a mismatch between social interest and social attainment that could serve as a useful animal model for experimental and mechanistic studies of loneliness.
To define the cellular mechanisms of up-regulated inflammatory gene expression and down-regulated antiviral response in people experiencing perceived social isolation (loneliness), we conducted integrative analyses of leukocyte gene regulation in humans and rhesus macaques. Five longitudinal leukocyte transcriptome surveys in 141 older adults showed up-regulation of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), monocyte population expansion, and up-regulation of the leukocyte conserved transcriptional response to adversity (CTRA). Mechanistic analyses in a macaque model of perceived social isolation confirmed CTRA activation and identified selective up-regulation of the CD14(++)/CD16(-) classical monocyte transcriptome, functional glucocorticoid desensitization, down-regulation of Type I and II interferons, and impaired response to infection by simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV). These analyses identify neuroendocrine-related alterations in myeloid cell population dynamics as a key mediator of CTRA transcriptome skewing, which may both propagate perceived social isolation and contribute to its associated health risks.
John P Capitanio
added a project goal
The goal of the project, which is a collaboration with Drs. John Cacioppo, Steve Cole, Louise Hawkley, and Stephanie Cacioppo, is to understand the biological mechanisms whereby loneliness confers risk for elevated morbidity and mortality.