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Pacing stereotypies in laboratory rhesus macaques: Implications for animal welfare and the validity of neuroscientific findings

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Colline PoirierORCiD, Professor Melissa BatesonORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Stereotypic behaviours are commonly observed in captive animals and are usually interpreted as a sign of poor welfare. Stereotypies have also been linked with brain abnormalities. However, stereotypies are a heterogeneous class of behaviours and mounting evidence indicates that different stereotypies can have different causes, and can be linked to different affective states. As a consequence, the implications of a specific stereotypy in a specific species cannot be safely inferred from evidence on other stereotypies or species. Here we review what is known about pacing behaviour in laboratory rhesus macaques, a common stereotypy in this species. Our review highlights the current lack of understanding of the causal factors underlying pacing behaviour. According to current knowledge, the welfare of pacing macaques could be either better, worse or equivalent to that of non-pacing individuals. It is also unclear whether pacing results from brain abnormalities. Since rhesus macaques are widely used as a model of healthy humans in neuroscience research, determining if pacing behaviour reflects an abnormal brain and/or poor welfare is urgent.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Poirier C, Bateson M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews

Year: 2017

Volume: 83

Pages: 508-515

Print publication date: 01/12/2017

Online publication date: 08/09/2017

Acceptance date: 07/09/2017

Date deposited: 22/09/2017

ISSN (print): 0149-7634

ISSN (electronic): 1873-7528

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.09.010


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