Advances in our understanding of the biological basis of alcohol abuse and alcoholism and the development of prevention and therapeutic intervention require appropriate animal models. Nonhuman primates are important to the study of complex biomedical disease processes. Genetic, anatomical, physiological, and behavioral similarities to humans offer unique opportunities for translational research along with the advantage of a degree of experimental control that is not possible in human studies. The purpose of this review is to outline the approaches taken with nonhuman primates as subjects in alcohol research and to highlight our current understanding of data on organismal variables that can be uniquely studied in these complex organisms. We review literature on alcohol self-administration to provide an integrative framework for discussion of progress in 2 important areas of research. Designs that incorporate self-administration provide a context for studying excessive alcohol consumption, including the organismal and environmental factors that influence risk for heavy drinking. We then review the use of monkeys to identify aspects of adverse biomedical consequences that follow excessive alcohol consumption. One of the primary conclusions to be drawn from this review is that nonhuman primates are a central part of the translational bridge in alcohol research, providing powerful and unique opportunities for experimental work that can address the biomedical complexities of alcohol abuse and alcoholism.
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