The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)


Changes in social behavior following the application of sensory-integration based therapy in a young adult female chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes)

ELLEN J. INGMANSON1, TERESA A. MAY-BENSON2, STEPHANIE BRACCINI3, INGRID PORTON3 and MARGARET L. BAUMAN4,5.

1Anthropology, Bridgewater State University, 2Research and Education, The Spiral Foundation, 3Great Apes, Saint Louis Zoo, 4Neurology, Harvard Medical School, 5Neurology and Pediatrics, Massachusetts General Hospital

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A young female chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) at the Saint Louis Zoo was identified with sensory integration and processing difficulties in 2009. At that time, Holly was conspicuous in range and frequency of stereotypies, restricted social interactions, lack of rest times and poor occupational performance in routine activities. Holly’s abnormal behavior tended to isolate her and affected some group social dynamics, for example, through avoidance behavior. To improve Holly’s situation, a plan providing therapeutic intervention based on human sensory integration theory was implemented. Frequencies of behavioral activity and social interactions were assessed using one-minute interval focal individual sampling, providing baseline, pre-intervention, and post-intervention data.

Prior to sensory integration therapy, Holly’s behavior differed from her peers and had been consistent for more than one year. Therapy intervention occurred in late 2010 and early 2011, providing enhanced sensory inputs through environmental enrichment and keeper directed activities. Immediately following intervention, Holly demonstrated significant improvement in some measures, such as decreased frequency of sterotypies. Data on social behavior also indicated some positive changes. After intervention, Holly spent less time alone, decreasing from 19.67% to 7.67% of observed intervals, with more time spent in social proximity to group members. Social interactions increased, especially with older adult females and adult males. Time spent socially grooming increased from 20.47% to 24.37%, with gains as groomer and recipient. Following therapy, Holly continued exhibiting difficulties in some situations, especially outdoors. Some initial positive gains following therapy were not fully sustained over longer periods of time. Continuing therapy may enhance benefits.

Funding for this project has been provided by a gift from the Roberts Family (Bauman), the Center for the Advancement of Research and Teaching at Bridgewater State University (Ingmanson), and the Maxwell Hurston Charitable Foundation (May-Benson).

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