In recent years there has been a marked increase in awareness of issues involving the psychological well‐being of nonhuman primates (NHPs) used in biomedical research. As a result, many facilities are starting to train primates to voluntarily cooperate with veterinary, husbandry, and research procedures, such as remaining still for blood draws or injections. Such training generally reduces the stress associated with these procedures, resulting in calmer animals and, ultimately, better research models.
In neurophysiological studies with awake non-human primates (NHP), it is typically necessary to train the animals over a prolonged period of time on a behavioral paradigm before the actual data collection takes place. Rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) are the most widely used primate animal models in system neuroscience. Inspired by existing joystick- or touch-screen-based systems designed for a variety of monkey species, we built and successfully employed a stand-alone cage-based training and testing system for rhesus monkeys (eXperimental Behavioral Intrument, XBI).
As more emphasis is placed on enhancing the psychological well-being of nonhuman primates, many research facilities have started using positive reinforcement training (PRT) techniques to train primates to voluntarily participate in husbandry and research procedures. PRT increases the animal’s control over its environment and desensitizes the animal to stressful stimuli. Blood draw is a common husbandry and research procedure that can be particularly stressful for nonhuman primate subjects. Although studies have demonstrated that chimpanzees can be trained for in-cage venipuncture using PRT only, fewer studies have demonstrated success using similar techniques to train macaques.