Primate vocalizations during social separation and aggression: Effects of alcohol and benzodiazepines

Elise M. Weerts, Klaus A. Miczek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The most common group of squirrel monkey vocalizations, peeps, are emitted during different social situations including social separation, affiliative interactions, feeding and aggressive confrontations. The present experiments investigated whether peeps and other vocalizations emitted during different social contexts are pharmacologically altered in a similar manner. First, vocalizations were characterized during (1) social separation in juveniles, and (2) 'resident-intruder' aggressive confrontations between dominant monkeys from different social groups. Then, the effects of alcohol (EtOH) and the benzodiazepine chlordiazepoxide (CDP) on vocalizations during social separation and during aggression were examined. Isolated juveniles emitted only one type of call, the isolation peep. Resident monkeys primarily emitted peeps, but also emitted cackles, chucks, noisy calls and pulsed calls. Aggressive peeps were similar in structure and frequency (kHz) to isolation peeps, but were shorter in duration. At the same doses, both CDP (0.3-3 mg/kg) and EtOH (0.1-1.0 g/kg) reduced explosive motor behaviors and isolation peeps in juvenile monkeys during social separation and increased threat displays and aggression peeps in resident monkeys during confrontations with an intruder monkey from a different social group. Thus, similarly structured vocalizations that were emitted during social separation and aggression were very sensitive to EtOH and CDP, but the social context determined the direction and magnitude of effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)255-264
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Aggression
  • Alcohol
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Communication
  • Isolation
  • Primates
  • Social behavior
  • Vocalizations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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