Controlled water intake: A method for objectively evaluating thirst and hydration state in monkeys by the measurement of blood osmolality

Hiroshi Yamada, Kenway Louie, Paul W. Glimcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Standard methods for behavioral and neurophysiological experiments in the non-human primate rely on controlled water access as a means for motivating subject performance. It is, however, still not clear whether animals are able to regulate their fluid balance appropriately under these experimental settings. Further, the physical state associated with a subject monkey's thirst has not yet been objectively assessed under these conditions. Both of these deficiencies arise from the lack of a method for independently evaluating the hydration state of these subjects during experimental testing. To address these limitations, we measured the blood osmolality, the most widely used hematological index of hydration status, of three rhesus monkeys under conditions of controlled water access while they participated in a standard reinforced behavioral task for fluid rewards. We found that day-to-day hydration levels, as measured by serum osmolality, appears to be well regulated in a narrow range of values (300-320mOsmo/kgH2O) by experimental subjects under these conditions: animals work harder and longer to earn more water rewards on a day when they are in a lower hydration state (higher osmolality) than when they are in a higher hydration state (lower osmolality). We also found that osmolality level decreases almost immediately after water intake, within 30min, in a surprisingly linear manner. Osmolality thus seems to provide a fairly precise reflection of the monkeys' hydration state on a timescale of minutes. This evidence suggests that osmolality can be used as a tool for monitoring the hydration level of experimental subjects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-89
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Methods
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • Blood osmolality
  • Hydration state
  • Non-human primate
  • Thirst

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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