Research at the Harlow Center
for Biological Psychology is focused on the fields of behavioral and
developmental psychology. Staff scientists obtain funding independently
through competitive grants from such federal agencies as the NIMH, NIAID,
at the Harlow Center, choose one of the following topics:
Areas of Investigation:
There are four
research units presently active at the Harlow Center for Biological
Psychology. The scientists heading these units are
affiliated with the
University of Wisconsin-Madison departments of psychology,
and kinesiology. General areas currently being investigated
at the Harlow
of Research Techniques:
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been an important diagnostic
tool in human medicine since the mid-1980s. Its value derives from the
fact that MRIs can precisely reveal specific tissue within any plane of
the body, reducing the need for invasive exploratory surgeries. This same
property makes MRIs useful for research into primate physiology. Scientists
at the Harlow Center use MRIs to routinely obtain data that would once
have required more invasive methods.
MRIs are obtained by placing
individuals within a magnetic field and submitting them to radio frequency
pulses that temporarily affect the spin of a limited number of hydrogen
atoms within the body. As these atoms revert to their typical alignment,
they release stored energy that is picked up by the scanner and collected
as mathematical data. Different tissue types and abnormal tissues each
give off a different signal. Computers can then convert these signals
into highly detailed 2- or 3-dimensional images.
Positron Emission Tomography
is utilized by researchers at the Harlow Center to study brain development
and function. Similar to MRIs, PET scans allow investigators to examine
the primate brain in a noninvasive manner. While MRIs show anatomical
features only, PET scans indicate chemical activity in specific brain
areas. This type of neuroimaging has no long-term negative effects in
people or in animals.
PET scans track the fate
of injected radioactive isotopes. These isotopes are incorporated
tracer molecules, which can be measured by the PET scanner.
then use these measurements to construct an image, giving
a visual representation of neurological activity.
The image to the left
dopamine D2 receptors which have bound to a specific radiotracer in
a rhesus monkey brain.
The Schneider Neonatal
Assessment Protocol (SNAP) is a modified version of the scales of human
development created by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, adapted specifically
for use with infant rhesus monkeys. SNAP involves a series of observational
tests designed to measure physical and neurobehavioral responses in
a standardized fashion. The variables measured by these tests fall into
four categories: temperament, interactive, neuromotor, and attentional.
An important application of this test is to measure the newborn response
to environmental stimuli. SNAP was first described by Dr. Mary Schneider
and Dr. Stephen Suomi in 1992 and has since been widely used by investigators
in the fields of psychobiology and toxicology.
The animal colony at the Harlow Center for Biological Psychology
is comprised of rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). All animals
currently housed at the Harlow Center were born at the facility, with
no wild-caught primates having been imported to the colony for over
20 years. All aspects of animal care and all research protocols are
monitored at both the university and the federal level to ensure compliance
with the Animal Welfare Act
and prevailing regulations.
whenever possible, and all animals benefit from a program
enrichment. Enrichment techniques include puzzle feeders,
use of a playroom, and housing with species-appropriate
such as ramps and branches.
More information on animal
research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is available on
the Wisconsin Primate Research Center web site. Specific information
about rhesus monkeys can be found on the WPRC rhesus monkey fact
Numerous students have
research experience through the Harlow Center for Biological
Undergraduate opportunities include internships, independent
for course credit, and employment as a student hourly worker.
students should contact individual researchers for more
interested in conducting
graduate studies at the Harlow Center should contact the UW-Madison
or The Graduate
School for further