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Ape Psychopathology – 2013 AAAS Annual Meeting Coverage

February 15, 2013

Chimpanzees in captivity sometimes suffer from simian versions of psychiatric disorders.



Apes on Zoloft. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Chimpanzees in captivity sometimes develop behaviors that resemble psychiatric disorders in humans. According to Martin Brüne of the University Hospital in Bochum, Germany, these can include depression, self-mutilation, social withdrawal, and repetitive behaviors like rocking back and forth. But surprisingly, medications such as Zoloft can be very effective.

MARTIN BRÜNE (University Hospital, Bochum, Germany):

I’m really surprised how well this works in the chimps. A similar condition in a human would never respond that well to such simple interventions.


He says the drug could help some chimpanzees adjust to retirement from biomedical research. Nonetheless, Brüne says that their potential for developing psychological problems in captivity is one reason European countries have stopped using chimps for such research. He adds that the U.S. is considering similar measures. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society. 

Hugo Rheinhold's famous sculpture "Ape with Skull", c. 1893 (Darwin Monkey/Wikipedia)