Self-injurious behavior is decreased by cyproterone acetate in adult male rhesus (Macaca mulatta)

G. G. Eaton, J. M. Worlein, S. T. Kelley, S. Vijayaraghavan, D. L. Hess, M. K. Axthelm, C. L. Bethea

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    40 Scopus citations


    Self-injurious behavior (SIB) presents a serious problem in laboratory macaques that cannot be socially housed for scientific reasons and among institutionalized children and adults where it is often associated with different forms of brain dysfunction. We have experienced limited success in reducing SIB in macaques by enhancing their environment with enrichment devices. Psychotropic drugs also help, but problems are associated with their use. Because sexual and aggressive behavioral problems in men have been treated with progestational drugs, we tested the efficacy of cyproterone acetate (CA, 5-10 mg/kg/week) on reducing SIB in 8 singly housed, adult male rhesus macaques. The main findings were: (1) SIB and other atypical behaviors were significantly reduced during CA treatment; (2) serum testosterone was significantly reduced during CA treatment; (3) cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) levels of 5HIAA and HVA, metabolites of serotonin and dopamine, respectively, declined significantly during CA treatment; (4) the duration of SIB positively correlated with levels of 5HIAA in CSF; but (5) sperm counts were not reduced during treatment. Thus, CA was a partially effective treatment (3 months) for adult male macaques whose behavioral problems include SIB. In summary, CA reduced SIB, overall aggression, serum testosterone, CSF 5HIAA, and CSF HVA. We hypothesized that the progestin activity of CA represses the hypothalamic gonadal axis and decreases testosterone, which in turn decreases SIB. In addition, we speculate that the decrease in 5HIAA and HVA in CSF may have been caused by progestins decreasing the activity of MAO. Therefore, the reduction of SIB may also be related to an increase in the availability of active monoamines in the CNS.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)195-203
    Number of pages9
    JournalHormones and Behavior
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Apr 1999


    • Androgen
    • Cyproterone acetate
    • Macaca mulatta
    • Males
    • Progestin
    • Self-injurious behavior (SIB)
    • Serotonin
    • Sperm
    • Testosterone

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Endocrinology
    • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
    • Behavioral Neuroscience


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