Genes, Neonatal Nursery and Biobehavioral Development
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Evidence suggests that early life stress (ELS) has significant impacts on development and health. Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) placement may be a form of ELS. Better understanding of the consequences and risk factors for NICU-associated adverse outcomes is important for improving knowledge about the long-term impact of ELS, potential gene-environment interactions and can be applied to refine neonatal and infant care practices. In this study of 106 differentially reared rhesus monkeys, we used hair cortisol and cortisone, clinical health data, and pedigree-based sibling relationships to: (1) identify the persistent physiological effects of ELS and (2) evaluate potential genetic factors associated with vulnerability to NICU-NR effects. We found no differences in hair cortisol or cortisone among rearing groups, but found that animals reared in the NICU for greater than 30 days experienced more health problems later in life than the other groups, showing an interaction between rearing and age.