Sunday, October 26, 2014

Responding to University of Wisconsin-Madison's Response to Dr. Ruth Decker's change.org petition


Responding to University of Wisconsin-Madison's Response to Dr. Ruth Decker's change.org petition asking the University of Wisconsin, Madison to stop Ned Kalin's cruel dead-end experiments on baby rhesus monkeys

UW-Madison says:  Since September, many people have taken interest in a University of Wisconsin–Madison study on the impact of early life stress on young rhesus monkeys. Thousands have added their names to a petition on the website change.org, calling for an end to the work, and we appreciate and share their concern for animals.

In fact, interest in and criticism of this project has been on going since early in 2012, when the Madison-based animal rights group, the Alliance for Animals, reviewed the minutes from one of the two animal care and use committees that evaluated and eventually approved Ned Kalin's project and began a campaign to stop it. Lori Gruen, Professor of Philosophy and Director of Ethics in Society at Wesleyan University criticized the project on September 14, 2012, in a public speaking event sponsored by UW-Madison at its much-hyped biomedical science cathedral, the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery. In May of 2013, the project was the topic of another event on campus, "The Ethics of Animal Experimentation: A conversation between bioethicist Rob Streiffer and research critic Rick Marolt." The large room was crowded with interested people.

It was in September of this year that UW-Madison took more notice of the criticism because the project finally came to the attention of many more people when (after two years of prodding)  Madison's weekly newspaper, Isthmus, put the story on its cover: Motherless monkeys: UW-Madison to revive controversial primateexperiments: Researchers will deprive infants of maternal contact to studyanxiety and depression. Noah Phillips on Thursday 07/31/2014.

UW-Madison says that it shares with the nearly 350,000 people who have signed the change.org position, "their concern for animals."  I doubt it.

UW-Madison says:  But we don’t appreciate the way petition’s author, Dr. Ruth Decker, misrepresents the research. By piling up mistakes, myths and exaggerations, and omitting important information, she asks well-meaning people to speak out with little understanding of the real science and the long, deliberative process through which it was approved.

Petulant and condescending. What they really don't like are those 350,000 well-meaning people who have little understanding of the real science. The Real Science. Mistakes, myths, exaggerations, and omissions? UW-Madison's mistakes, myths, exaggerations, and omissions of information concerning its use of animals is legendary.

The long deliberative process UW-Madison refers to is a discussion, usually perfunctory, among a group of people whose livelihoods depend on the continuing flow of the tax dollars that pay for experiments on animals. The committees are required to have a member who is not affiliated with the institution. In practice, among the dozen people sitting around the table, one or two of them will be non-affiliated members. All the others are usually financially dependent on NIH grant monies.

But this project did get held up. Even some vivisectors thought it was extreme. A very rare phenomena.

UW-Madison: The truth is of little concern to activists who wish to end animal research, no matter the benefit to humans and animals. We don’t share that sentiment. We prefer people make their judgments on animal research with a fuller understanding of the research — of both its costs and potential benefits.

I'm no psychologist, but this appears to be a projection of  UW-Madison 's self-image onto those it thinks of as the enemy. The truth is poison to UW-Madison . UW-Madison has destroyed large many records regarding their experiments on animals to keep them out of the public eye. They apparently don't want the public to be able to become informed. Even here, when UW-Madison says that they prefer people make their judgments with a fuller understanding of the research, why didn't they provide a link to the approved protocol? Why not encourage people to read it themselves? Here's a link to the protocol; it is available to the public only because UW-Madison's critics think the facts matter.

UW-Madison: This is not a repeat of experiments UW–Madison psychology professor Harry Harlow conducted as many as five decades ago, some of which subjected animals to extreme stress and isolation.

This is a half truth. Harlow did conduct experiments similar to these, sans any claim of some possible new drug emerging from it. He reported on the behavior of monkeys raised in nearly identical ways: pulled from their mothers at birth, put alone into a cage until able to self-regulate their body temperature, and then put with another infant the same age. He published photographs of them clinging to each other.

UW-Madison: The methods for the modern work were selected specifically because they can reliably create mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety in the monkeys. They were chosen to minimize discomfort for the animals, and to minimize the number of animals required to provide researchers with answers to their questions.

And those questions are? They don't say, in spite of their stated desire that people have a fuller understanding of the research. This is the question: what patentable gene sequence might be a precursor to some part of some neurochemical pathway associated with some form of mental illness? That really is it. All their other claims are just window dressing.

As far as the reliable creation of mild to moderate anxiety, that's not really what they are doing. No one seeing human children behaving as Kalin expects the young monkeys will behave would describe them as being mild to moderately anxious. In fact, the American Psychological Association says that mild to moderate anxiety in humans can be helpful. They say that that's what we feel "When you're driving in heavy traffic or struggling to meet a deadline."

The idea that the feelings I have in heavy traffic are very much like what infant monkeys raised first in solitary confinement and then with a similarly traumatized male infant in a small cage, is ludicrous. The American Psychological Association goes on to give examples of genuine anxiety disorders and notes that: "Fortunately, there is effective treatment for anxiety disorders."  More evidence that the university isn't accurately describing Kalin's project.

UW-Madison: There is no “solitary confinement.” The animals live in cages with other monkeys of their own age, a method of care called peer rearing. This method is often used when mothers reject their infant monkeys, which happens regularly in situations from nature to zoos to clinical nurseries with first-time mothers or following caesarean-section births.

Complete gibberish. The baby monkeys are confined alone for the first 4 to 6 weeks of their lives. In normal circumstances they would be clinging to their mothers, being fondled, inspected, and cleaned by them, in constant contact. Infant monkeys and infant humans have very different psychosocial needs when they are very young. Infant humans benefit from regular touch whereas infant rhesus monkeys have a profound need for contact. It is easy to understand this difference when considered from an evolutionary perspective. Humans, like cats and dogs, are atricial; we are born at an earlier developmental stage than many other animals and are nearly helpless and not very aware of our surroundings. Rhesus monkeys on the other hand must cling to their mothers very soon in order to survive. They are more developed, physically and cognitively at birth than are humans. The trauma to them from being taken from their mothers has no counterpart in humans.

After 4 to 6 weeks they are caged with another infant of the same age and similarly maternally deprived. The university says, "The animals live in cages with other monkeys." No they don't. Two babies are in a cage. No infant is caged with "other monkeys."

UW-Madison says that peer rearing "happens regularly in situations from nature to zoos...." That's ridiculous. Two motherless infants can't raise each other. Nothing like this ever occurs in nature. UW-Madison must think the people reading their nonsense will believe anything. And zoos go to great lengths when monkeys are orphaned in an effort to ameliorate the well known impacts of being orphaned. In the Kalin project, the vivisectors intentionally don't employ the techniques that are known to lesson the negative impacts of peer rearing.

The serious consequences of peer rearing are known widely by those who raise monkeys in the laboratory setting. "Nursery rearing is the single most important risk factor in the development of severe forms of abnormal behavior, such as self-biting, in rhesus macaques. This practice is common in research laboratories and typically involves continuous pair housing of infants without maternal contact." The effects of four nursery rearing strategies on infant behavioral development in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). Rommeck I1, Gottlieb DH, Strand SC, McCowan B. J Am Assoc Lab Anim Sci. 2009 Jul.

UW-Madison: The animals in the study are not “terrorized,” and do not experience “relentless torture.” 

They may as well have claimed that dancing fairies come at midnight and entertain them. I suspect that every time one of the infants is pulled away from what or whomever they are clinging that the emotion they experience is very much terror. In fact, when not trying to score PR points, UW-Madison agrees that the baby monkeys are terrorized. In 1998, UW-Madison wrote about Ned Kalin's experiments and said, "Being separated from mother terrifies infant primates." 

As far as relentless torture, torture seems to be a plastic concept in the hands of government. Can torture be psychological? It seems to me that social and environmental deprivation could be torturous. If so, then it seems that from the babies perspective, they could be experiencing relentless torture. And certainly, the repeated separations will be torturous experiences. And the procedures they will be subjected to are intended to add to their distress.

UW-Madison: Most of their time is spent as a house pet would spend its days — grooming, sleeping, eating and playing with toys, puzzles and other animals.

Who keeps their house pet in a small cage 24 hours a day, every day? I'm sure they do pick at themselves, but at their age, their mothers would be grooming them. And they do eat and sleep. But the claim that they play with toys, puzzles, and other animals is very misleading. In the wild, monkeys don't seem to have toys or play with things as if they are toys, so calling some object put into their cage a toy, is misleading. The monkeys are not sitting around solving puzzles either.

Monkeys kept in standard laboratory cages are prone to developing a number of aberrant behaviors, which for some monkeys can include self-inflicted trauma. It was discovered that these often deleterious behaviors can be moderated or reduced if the monkey's attention can be kept engaged. Puzzle feeders are now a common item in the monkey labs. Their kibble is put into a device that makes it difficult to get to. A monkey must work to retrieve a piece. That's nothing like someone playing with a puzzle.

This is the second time in their response that they say the monkeys are with, and now get to play with, other animals.

This is like you being kelp in a prison 24/7 with a cell mate, and me telling someone concerned for your well being that you get to be with people.

UW-Madison: On occasion, to assess the monkeys’ level of anxious temperament, they are observed under two anxiety-provoking conditions. The first involves the presence of an unknown person who briefly enters the room, but does not make eye contact with the monkey. The second involves the monkey being able to see a snake, which is enclosed in a covered Plexiglas container in the same room, but outside the monkey’s cage.

This makes it sound like the monkeys will have only two anxiety producing experiences. But of course, they will really have many more.

Let's count them. We can see a sort of timeline in a chart showing the planned procedures early in this video. The chart predicts that all the manipulations, imaging, and tissue collection will be complete before each monkey's 60th week of age. They will be killed at some unspecified time, but according to the chart, they will no more than 80 weeks old. During that 60 week period, beginning the moment they are pulled from their mothers, each monkey will undergo: 7 human intruder tests; 5 MRIs; 9 blood draws; 5 PET scans; 1 skin biopsy; 2 spinal taps; 1 exposure to a snake; be exposed to an unknown monkey 2 times; and be observed in a "play cage" 2 times. When they are about 25 weeks old, they will be taken from their cage mate, and placed with a new monkey (who has undergone the same procedures). 

Some of those events happen on the same day. The human intruder, blood draw, and PET scan all occur in immediate succession on the same day. Overall, the monkeys will be manipulated in some way every week. Their separation from their original cage mate must be a particularly stressful experience. Many of the procedures will entail being taken from their cage mate. These repeated separations are likely to exacerbate the separation anxiety the monkeys may experience. Together, this host of experiences seems much different from UW-Madison's glossed over description of what will happen to the babies in their response to Dr. Decker's petition.

UW-Madison:  The stress the monkeys experience is comparable to what an anxious human might feel when encountering a stranger or a snake or a nurse with a needle.

That's more meaningless gibberish. How does an anxious person behave and feel? There are people who are so anxious that they can't leave their home. They might faint if confronted by a stranger. I took an on-line anxiety test at Psychology Today. It said I have "Existential Anxiety." I like snakes. Strangers? For me it depends on the context. All anxious people have the same reactions to a stranger, a snake, and a nurse with a needle? What silliness. Hardly scientific.

UW-Madison: No one was “left out” of the review by UW–Madison oversight committees. Several university committees spent a great deal of time assessing Dr. Kalin’s anxiety research, and each committee found it to be acceptable and ethical.

Context matters here too. Those committees approve essentially every project they consider. It isn't a surprise that they approved this one. What is surprising, what is a complete and novel departure from business as usual, is the fact that someone embedded in the system said no. They gummed up the works and stalled the project; its eventual approval was probably never in doubt. Essentially every project gets approved, and Ned Kalin is a powerful senior administrator and researcher.

And, the committees didn't decide that the experiments are ethical. There is noting in the very limited committee minutes suggesting that any ethical analysis took place, but that is as expected. There are no committees at UW-Madison or at most other labs in the US that make ethical decisions about the use of animals. The IACUC Handbook (2nd Edition. CRC. 2007) notes that the committees are not able to make ethical evaluations. The committees decide only if the planned use of animals complies with  federal regulations. If it does not, the committee explains to the researcher what must be changed to gain approval, and at times even provides prewritten responses for use on the forms.

UW-Madison: These were groups of researchers, veterinarians and public representatives tasked with considering animal research on ethical grounds, and with ensuring potentially beneficial research will subject the fewest animals to the least invasive measures.

If true, the university has invented a new kind of committee. But their ersatz balm doesn't ring true to me. I have reviewed the minutes of many years of three of UW-Madison's animal use committees, two of which are the ones that approved Kalin's new project. I have seen little if any evidence that the committees ever engage in discussion about the ethics of a particular project or the enterprise at large. But again, that isn't surprising because the committees are not charged with making ethical determinations by either NIH or USDA, the two main federal agencies involved in the oversight of animal experimentation. 

"[P]otentially beneficial" is justification for just about anything. Every lottery ticket is a potential winner.

UW-Madison: As the petition notes, an animal rights group took allegations about the committee process to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. What the petition does not mention is that USDA conducted an investigation in August in response to that complaint. Inspectors found the complaint lacking merit, and the process to be entirely within compliance with federal regulations.

Maybe that's what the inspectors found, but it isn't what they said. This is the body of the report:

No non-compliant items identified during this inspection.
This was a focused inspection conducted on 8/25/14 and 8/26/14.
Exit interview conducted on 8/27/14 with facility representatives.

Regular observers of reports from USDA inspectors know that a different inspector might have found differently. In any case, the report says only that whatever the committee did was in compliance with animal welfare regulations. We don't really know what was said during the committee meetings because UW-Madison has taken steps to keep the public from learning the plain facts. And they are being sued because of it.

What led to some observers imaging that there may have been a violation of some sort may have been the result of something called designated review. When a committee explains to a researcher what they need to do to make their project acceptable, it frequently defers further review by the entire committee and leaves the final approval a designated committee member. For members who were opposed to the project, consignment to designated review could have made them feel locked out of any opportunity to further their argument.

UW-Madison: Most importantly, the petition repeatedly maligns the research as “needless” and “unnecessary.” We and many others think otherwise. Dr. Kalin, who treats human patients with anxiety and depression disorders, has worked for more than 30 years to understand both inherited and environmental causes of mental illness. His research was also reviewed and supported by panels of scientists at the National Institutes of Mental Health.


By "We" UW-Madison means those whose income rely on the continuous turn of the federal tax dollar treadmill of animal experimentation. As far as many others thinking his work should be funded, most of them are also financially dependent on the treadmill's perpetual motion. The appeal to our sympathy for patients would be less manipulative if it mentioned the number of patients he sees in a day. I suspect it is less than one. His role as a university administrator and as a lead scientist on four tax-payer-funded projects must use up at least some of his time:

5 R01 MH046729 20
DEVELOPMENT AND REGULATION OF EMOTION IN PRIMATES           
$629,176
           
5 R01 MH081884 06
BRAIN MECHANISMS MEDIATING GENETIC RISK FOR ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION
$676,587
           
5 R21 MH092581 02
BRAIN MECHANISMS UNDERLYING CHILDHOOD GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER
$216,720
           
5 P50 MH100031 02 6276    
NEURAL MECHANISMS MEDIATING ADVERSITY'S IMPACT ON THE RISK FOR DEVELOPING ANXIET        
$521,866

You'll notice too that UW-Madison refers to a statement from Tom Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) as evidence of others thinking the experiments have merit:

“One only has to look at the Ebola crisis to appreciate the vital role that animals play in biomedical research, in this case, in the testing of potentially life-saving vaccines. But, it doesn’t stop there. Neuropsychiatric disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. Advances in understanding and treating these devastating conditions rests on fundamental basic behavioral and brain science that, as with infectious diseases, begins with carefully conducted studies in animals. NIMH has supported the research in the Kalin lab for many years. This support is part of our commitment to the belief that careful, well-founded, peer-reviewed research such as this will lead to improvements in our understanding and treatment of mental disorders.”

Well, when I look at the Ebola crisis, I see something else. In any case, the support for Kalin boils down to this: "NIMH has supported the research in the Kalin lab for many years." That's true, and they should be ashamed of it. But shame isn't in the palette of emotions of most vivisectors and Tom Insel is no exception.

60 Minutes ran a piece on the Yerkes Primate Research Center, maybe 15 years ago. They showed sedated monkeys being thrown into the back of an open-bed truck as if they were sacks of potatoes. They also interviewed Tom Insel, who was at the time the director of the primate center. They asked him about monkey escapes from the primate center, and he said there hadn't been any. Then they interviewed a young girl, she was maybe five years old. She told about the monkey that had come onto the deck in their back yard. Insel had been caught in a blatant lie. Insel's opinion on animal research hardly matters since without it, he'd be out of a job. A small bit of trivia: Insel's own research was focused on the function of oxytocin in stressed mice and voles.

UW-Madison: The decision to study animal models to understand human psychiatric disorders is not made lightly.

Given the obscene amounts of money involved, they indeed take the matter very seriously.

UW-Madison concludes with this: In this case, the human suffering is so great that Kalin, the National Institutes of Health and UW–Madison’s review committees believe the potential benefit of the knowledge gained from this research justifies the use of an animal model.

But the people at NIH who approved the project are vivisectors too. They are financially vested in the continuation of the practice as is just about everyone at UW-Madison who has supported it.

The potential benefit should be considered by weighing the proven benefits of Kalin's past research. But that metric isn't used by NIH or UW-Madison because there haven't been any benefits from Kalin's past research, and such a weighing would make it plain that the likelihood of benefit from his new project is nil.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Vivisectors, a Living Sociological Laboratory


Most government-funded vivisectors are probably fairly smart and have been to college. Those and other characteristics of that group further inform modern thinkers about potential and observable effects of various situational influences on behavior.

History and past research provide an immense body of evidence demonstrating that otherwise normal people otherwise destined to live more or less benign lives, can be easily induced to do bad things to other people. Stanley Milgram showed us that a random person off the street will almost always hurt, sometimes kill, a total stranger simply because someone who they perceived as an authority told them to. Our moral rudders are apparently very flimsy.

If a random person off the street can be so easily made to do the worse things to someone they don't know, we don't need to wonder why or how someone trained to do bad things can do them. But the behavior of vivisectors provides us with something that is not as easily discerned in past research into the causes of cruelty.

Past studies have had to rely on reports from people who committed atrocities after they were widely condemned and stopped. Those people have tended to speak somewhat guardedly. See for instance the interviews of people who were interrogators or members of state-sanctioned death squads in Violence Workers: Police Torturers and Murderers Reconstruct Brazilian Atrocities by M. Huggins, M. Haritos-Fatouros, and  P. Zimbardo. (2002).

There are a handful of reports that have sought some understanding of vivisectors' self perceptions and feelings about the things they do. See for instance  The Sacrifice: How Scientific Experiments Transform Animals and People by LIA Birke, A. Arluke, and M. Michael. (2007). There are also some books and articles written for the public by vivisectors trying to justify their work, see for instance, Why Animal Experimentation Matters: The Use of Animals in Medical Research, a collection of essays edited by EF Paul and J Paul (2001). And there is a collection of books written by vivisectors vilifying their critics. See for instance The Animal Research War by PM Conn and JV Parker. (2008).

Today, there are on-line sources that provide some of insight into the twists and turns of the vivisection industry's self-justifications. Some of these are produced by lobbying groups and trade organizations trying to promote the use of animals. These are groups like the National Association for Biomedical Research and the Society for Neuroscience. Many universities put up web pages to defend and promote their use of animals as well.

A relatively new source of insight into the beliefs of vivisectors is the on-line presence of some collections of writing by them. One recent example is a defense of experiments on baby monkeys written by University of Wisconsin, Madison vivisector Allyson J. Bennett: "Child health benefits from studies of infant monkeys – Part 1". Bennett's apology is her rebuttal to recent criticism of the use of infant monkeys at UW-Madison and at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, a part of the NIH.

Bennett's own work is focused in part on the long-term consequences to monkeys from having been raised in deprived conditions. See for example: Long-term effects of differential early rearing in rhesus macaques: behavioral reactivity in adulthood. Corcoran CA, Pierre PJ, Haddad T, Bice C, Suomi SJ, Grant KA, Friedman DP, Bennett AJ. Dev Psychobiol. 2012. 

It isn't a coincidence that Bennett defends the use of baby monkeys. Bennett and Steven Suomi are frequent collaborators. Stephen Suomi was Harry Harlow's star pupil and deeply involved in imprinting an infamously dark stain on the university's legacy. Suomi is the director of the NIH in-house lab being criticized as a result of records being brought to light by PETA, particularly video recordings of baby monkeys being used in macabre, psychological pulling-the-wings-off-butterflies sorts of experiments, and the vivisectors' shocking (to some!) laughing response to young monkeys' distress.

Bennett's  defense of the use of baby monkeys may be motivated as well by the national criticism that has erupted over the resurrection of maternal deprivation at UW-Madison where Bennett is now currently employed and being paid by taxpayers to study the long term effects on monkeys raised in social isolation.

Bennett defends the use of baby monkeys generally by pointing to their use: because vivisectors use baby monkeys, it must be proper to use them. She provides a list of examples that she believes  justify frightening, physically and psychologically harming, and killing young monkeys; or in her words, "demonstrate how the work contributes to public health," as if, even if true, that could justify the infants' terror, pain, and deaths.

She provides 29 bulleted examples. She was a busy badger.

The majority of them don't amount to anything at all. At all. She simply points to projects that involve hurting and killing young monkeys, more or less saying, wouldn't it be great if this project helps someone someday? Her assertion is illustrative. Her point is exactly the one used to justify every taxpayer-funded project using animals in the U.S. today. Maybe she can be excused for succumbing to her industry's rhetoric.

Bennett points to only five examples that she believes are evidence that experiments using young monkeys have benefited human patients, and therefore are justified and justify all future use of infant monkeys.

1. "Work conducted by Martha Neuringer at the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC) on visual development established the importance for infant nutrition of two nutrients, taurine and omega-3 fatty acids, and led to the addition of these substances to infant formulas worldwide. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8915371, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19369246)."

Martha Neuringer. I heard a description of her work at a law conference in 1996; it contributed to who I am today. Really briefly, she took infant rhesus monkeys from their mothers and raised them on a formula without taurine, did serial brain biopsies on them, and reported that the absence of taurine affected brain development in infant rhesus monkeys. And then she repeated the experiment. And then she did it again -- she had to do something to justify her draws on her taxpayer-funded grant.

Taurine is the most abundant free amino acid in breast milk. Think infants might need it? Neurenger's work is not much different than a demonstration that oxygen is a necessary component of the air children breathe.  Neurenger's work was and continues to be cruel garbage. Even now, she is reporting that monkeys fed nutrient deficient diets suffer long term health consequences. Dietary omega-3 fatty acids modulate large-scale systems organization in the rhesus macaque brain. Grayson DS, Kroenke CD, Neuringer M, Fair DA. J Neurosci. 2014.

2. "Scientists at the CNPRC developed the SIV/rhesus macaque pediatric model of disease, to better understand the pathogenesis of SIV/HIV in neonates and test strategies for immunoprophylaxis and antiviral therapy to prevent infection or slow disease progression. Drug therapies used to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to infant were developed in nonhuman primate models at the CNPRC, and are now being successfully used in many human populations to protect millions of infants from contracting HIV. (http://www.cnprc.ucdavis.edu/koen-van-rompay/)"

Koen van Rompay's university webpage says that: "Dr. Van Rompay was on the forefront of developing HIV treatments at the CNPRC in the 1990s. He helped to develop and test the anti-viral drug tenofovir."

But not so much. SIV, the simian immunodeficiency virus was not identified until after HIV the human immunodeficiency virus was described. When scientists studying HIV in vitro discovered an agent that might have value in treating AIDS, monkeys researchers were quick to try it out on monkeys intentionally infected with some version of SIV, a different disease in a different species. Research using monkeys has never resulted in advancements in treating HIV. At best, primate vivisectors have demonstrated that some methods of preventing HIV in humans can sometimes be effective in preventing SIV in monkeys. Big whoop.

3. "Eliot Spindel at the ONPRC has shown that large doses of Vitamin C can protect developing lungs from the damage caused when mothers smoke. This work has been duplicated in clinical trials. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15709053)"

It is true that Spindel is involved in a clinical trial of using vitamin C in pregnant women who smoke to see whether it might ameliorate some of the known deleterious effects of nicotine to developing fetuses. And, it is true that Spindel has given pregnant monkeys nicotine, or as he explains, "Nicotine was delivered by continuous infusion using subcutaneously implanted osmotic minipumps," (what mother smokes 24/7?) Oddly though, and I wonder if the women in the clinical trial know this, he reported that in the pregnant monkeys being infused with nicotine, "Vitamin C substantially increased the nicotine concentration in the amniotic fluid." See: Effects of prenatal nicotine exposure on primate brain development and attempted amelioration with supplemental choline or vitamin C: neurotransmitter receptors, cell signaling and cell development biomarkers in fetal brain regions of rhesus monkeys. Slotkin TA, Seidler FJ, Qiao D, Aldridge JE, Tate CA, Cousins MM, Proskocil BJ, Sekhon HS, Clark JA, Lupo SL, Spindel ER. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2005.

I'm no pediatrician, but I'll wager that increased nicotine concentration in the amniotic fluid isn't good for a developing baby of any species.

4. "WNPRC scientists and surgeons at UW Hospital successfully tested a new compound, mycophenolate mofetil, in combination with other drugs in monkeys and other animals, and then in human patients in the 1990s. Their work has saved the lives of patients needing kidney or other organ transplants. These new therapies have also kept patients with chronic kidney diseases, including lupus nephritis, which strikes many children and teens, from needing transplants. (Hans Sollinger, Folkert Belzer, Stuart Knechtle, others.) (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8680054, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9706169, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8821838"

Maybe it was getting late when Bennett was writing this and she simply forgot her theme: the benefits to children from experimenting on baby monkeys, because she didn't provide any evidence to support her assertion; there probably isn't any

It is an easily demonstrated fact that mycophenolate mofetil was tested on animals, I don't know of any drugs that haven't been. Mycophenolate mofetil was tested in rats, mice, and dogs before it was tried on humans, and I don't think they were pups or puppies.

Here's a passage from a paper reporting on the first clinical trial:
RS-61443 synthesized by Dr. Peter Nelson(Syntex Corporation, Palo Alto, CA)was found to have improved bioavailability as compared with mycophenolic acid. In vivo, the drug blocks proliferative responses of T and B lymphocytes' and inhibits antibody formation and the generation of cytotoxic T-cells. In vivo, monotherapy with RS-61443 was shown to prolong the survival of heart allografts in rats and islet allograft survival in mice. When combined with low doses of cyclosporine A (5mg/kg)and prednisone (0.1 mg/kg), RS-61443 significantly prolonged the survival of renal allografts in mongrel dogs. The first clinical trials with RS-61443 were conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Alabama-Birmingham. The purpose of this study was to test the safety and tolerance in patients receiving primary cadaver kidneys. RS-61443 (mycophenolate mofetil). A multicenter study for refractory kidney transplant rejection. Sollinger HW, Belzer FO, Deierhoi MH, Diethelm AG, Gonwa TA, Kauffman RS, Klintmalm GB, McDiarmid SV, Roberts J, Rosenthal JT, et al. Ann Surg. 1992.

(An aside) "Recent findings from nonhuman primates studied by Ned Kalin at the WNPRC suggest that an overactive core circuit in the brain, and its interaction with other specialized circuits, accounts for the variability in symptoms shown by patients with severe anxiety. The ability to identify brain mechanisms underlying the risk during childhood for developing anxiety and depression is critical for establishing novel early-life interventions aimed at preventing the chronic and debilitating outcomes associated with these common illnesses. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23538303, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23071305)"

I just had to include this here. Notice that she cites nothing from Kalin's decades of experiments on young monkeys  that have benefited children. Nothing. It's just the same old song and dance; his work has suggested this or that, but has led to nothing. Nothing. Literally millions of taxpayer dollars and immense suffering. He's hurting and killing baby monkeys, so it must be good, it must be important. This is a stellar example of the mindset of someone doing and trying to defend evil behavior. The simple facts are ignored; excuses are made; nothing but hubris. And it's easy to understand why someone becomes such a cork head, the research into this sort of blind evil behavior has been consistent. Most of us would succumb; people are weak and almost always go along when an authority figure -- a king, general, God, NIH, a man in a white coat -- tells them to do something, no matter how odious. And, the propensity to act so badly is reinforced when the authority figure awards you for your work and holds you up as an example of the good. Most of us will do anything and believe anything we are told to believe. The research on this is unequivocal. Unequivocal.

And since I have for a moment stepped aside from looking at Bennett's claims actual benefit, I deviate a bit further and call your attention to an implication of her apparent inability to locate an example of actual benefit to children or adults from Kalin's experiments.

A few years ago, Kalin's regular collaborator and co-author Richard Davidson was speaking at a local book store. Most of the audience was there to adore him and moon over his close association with the Dalai Lama (there's an example of screwing with a child's early development). But I and a few friends had other questions in mind.

Put on the spot to point to one single benefit to human patients that have resulted from his and Kalin's decades of cruelty, the only thing he could come up with was to say that there was a Phase I clinical trial underway to test something -- he wouldn't say what -- that had come out of the experiments. If he wasn't lying, and there is absolutely no reason to think he wasn't -- then whatever it was must have been an abject failure.

5. "The first pluripotent stem cell derived clinical trials to treat childhood blindness are now underway, using stem cell technologies discovered using monkeys first, then humans, by WNPRC scientist James Thomson in the 1990s-2000s. (https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/results?term=juvenile+macular+degeneration+stem+cell&Search=Search, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18029452, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9804556, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7544005

If clinical trials are underway to treat macular degeneration using stem cells, why is Martha Neuringer, blasted in number 1 above, conducting stem cell experiments on the eyes of rats and monkeys and claiming that her work will lead to some new treatment for macular degeneration?

As far as Thompson's work on the isolation and culture of pluripotent stem cells is concerned, he certainly didn't need monkeys, he could have used any muticellular organism at its very early stages of development. He used monkey blastocysts because they were readily available. He reported his isolation of an embryonic cell line in monkeys in 1995 and then moved to the use of human cells almost immediately. The notion that the first pluripotent stem cell derived clinical trials to treat childhood blindness are now underway because of Thomson's very few monkey cell experiments is farfetched and simply ignores his publication history. And, unless you want to call a blastocyst a baby, this too is far off the mark Bennett claims to be addressing.

And that's it. That's part and parcel of the "benefits" Bennett has been able to identify as a result of experiments on infant monkeys. 

So, looking at Bennett's efforts to defend the use of baby monkeys in harmful experimentation we gain further evidence and insight into the effects of situational influences on behavior. It may have been Peter Singer who pointed out the conditioned ethical blindness of vivisectors. It can work like this: A student is confronted with a science lesson in school that involves hurting and killing and animal or even dissecting an already dead animals. When they voice their concern, the teacher, the authority figure, consoles and encourages them, saying something along the lines of, "No one likes to hurt animals, but sometimes in science there is no other choice."  

Most of us in that situation, as research readily demonstrates, will be swayed by the weight of the authority's opinion. Students who find biology interesting and choose to follow a course that leads to a life science education in college will have many reinforcing experiences, and at every turn, if they voice some reticence, they will be consoled or challenged by the current authority with the admonition that science sometimes requires scientists to make tough decisions.  

By the time they get to graduate school and land a job in some scientist's lab, they have been thoroughly indoctrinated and are surrounded by others who have been through similar conditioning. They see around them scientists being honored by their institutions, media, authoritative profession organizations, and receiving lavish monetary rewards for their experiments on animals. It becomes ever more unlikely that they will be able to think independently. Additional factors come into play as well. Because medical research is often cast as a war against this or that malady, ethical constraints are further weakened because we think war can necessitate actions that would be unthinkable in times of peace. Additionally, vivisectors rightly feel that they are under attack from people like me. Having a common enemy lends itself to being less than critical about the things their fellow-victimized colleagues are doing, and so little to no self-criticism or questioning of the ethical premise is tolerated. I have an acquaintance who was drummed out of a primate lab because she stopped and spoke with people protesting outside the lab and then asked her laboratory colleagues what they thought about the protestors' concerns. A current example of the matter-of-fact acceptance of their peers' opinions on the ethics and value of animal experimentation is UW-Madison's promotion of Bennett's essay (near the bottom of the right hand column.)

Because of the conditioning and the situational influences on their behavior, vivisectors' ethical positions and confused arguments to support their positions and beliefs are understandable and largely predictable. I believe that they, as a group, offer those who have an interest in the roots of evil behavior, a living laboratory which could further our understanding of a phenomena that has most often had to be examined retrospectively.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Primate Vivisectors Said No to Ending Child Poverty

I wrote this circa 1998.

Ending Child Poverty

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 181.6 million underweight pre-school aged children among the world’s developing nations. WHO estimates there are 210.5 million stunted pre-school aged children and 46.1 million wasted pre-school aged children living in the world’s developing nations.

The World Health Organization summarizes its concerns, “Our findings confirm the great magnitude of undernutrition which, more than any other disability, continues to hamper the physical growth and mental development of more than a third of the world's children. Indeed, it is a major threat to their very survival.” [emphasis added]

The National Center for Children in Poverty at the Joseph L. Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University reports that,
* The number of American young children living in poverty increased from 3.5 million in 1979 to 5.2 million in 1997. The young child poverty rate grew by 20 percent during that same period.

* 22 percent of young children in America live in poverty, i.e., in families with incomes below the federal poverty line ($12,802 for a family of three in 1997).

* Researchers have gathered new evidence on the importance of the first years of life for children's emotional and intellectual development. (Shore, 1997) Unfortunately, millions of American children are poor during these crucial years. Almost one in four (24 percent) of America's children under age three lived in poverty in 1995. These 2.8 million poor children face a greater risk of impaired brain development due to their exposure to a number of risk factors associated with poverty.

* Children deprived of proper nutrition during the brain's most formative years score much lower on tests of vocabulary, reading comprehension, arithmetic, and general knowledge. The more severe the poverty a child faces, the lower his or her nutritional level is likely to be.



* Exposure to neurotoxins such as lead causes brain damage and stunts the growth of the brain. 55 percent of African American children living in poverty have toxic levels of lead in their blood.

* Experiences of trauma or abuse during the first years of life result in extreme anxiety, depression, and/or the inability to form healthy attachments to others. Another troubling effect of early trauma is that it leads to a significantly higher propensity for violence later in life. The stressors that face poor families cause much more trauma for their children.

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

Reduce the Poverty Rate, says the National Center for Children in Poverty.

World Vision is the largest child sponsorship organization in the world according to their current television campaign to raise money for children in poverty. Spokespersons Kathy Lee Gifford and Alex Trebek tell viewers that $22 a month in donations will give one child living in poverty the food they need to have a chance for healthy development.

The Christian Children’s Fund asks for only $0.80 per day, or $24 a month to lift a child from hunger.

Feed the Children, an organization dedicated to feeding the most impoverished children in America, says they can move 1000 pounds of food for a donation of only $10 a month.

Look at these figures from another perspective. David Amaral, a researcher at the California Regional Primate Research Center in Davis, California and Ned Kalin, a researcher at the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center in Madison, Wisconsin received a combined total of $579,487 tax dollars in 1998. They were paid to inject chemicals into the brains of young monkeys. These chemicals were injected into the region of the brain associated with basic emotions such as fear.

This means that approximately 724,359 children were left in poverty last year so that Amaral and Kalin could study methods of disrupting normal emotional development in monkeys.

In 1997 the National Institutes of Health spent $114,502,974 to keep researchers at the seven Regional Primate Research Centers working at projects like Kalin's and Amaral's. Researchers worked to clone monkeys, addict them to cocaine, poison them with alcohol, infect them with monkey viruses, and study why so many monkeys in laboratories mutilate themselves. This $114 million was only a portion of the total spent by the federal government to experiment on primates. Most major universities have projects using primates underway. It would not be unreasonable to estimate that the total figure used in this line of research is today approaching $200 million dollars.

But, using the 1997 figures and using only the total consumed by the seven NIH centers that year, about 143 million children who could have been saved were left in poverty. So, these scientists could achieve no larger impact than demanding that the primate centers be closed immediately and the money allocated to them be immediately targeted to end the ravishes of child poverty. By simply closing the primate centers stunting and wasting could be nearly eliminated among the world's children.

And, by closing only one primate center, child poverty in the U.S. could be ended.

What the researchers will do remains to be seen.

Moral Similarities Continue to Confound Vivisectors

Call to Action: UW-Madison head vivisector says caring people should not let Ned Kalin's experiments continue.


At about 54:21 in the video, a UW-Madison faculty member asks university spokesperson Eric Sandgren, and I'm paraphrasing: "If the baby monkeys in Ned Kalin's project are being used because their emotions are so much like a human child's how is it ethical to use them?"

This question, which I have posed innumerable times and has even been printed on t-shirts, can be boiled down to this:
How like us need they be?
That question is at the heart of every decision we make regarding the way we treat each other. The question isn't one that gets answered very often by people who hurt and kill animals or by those who actions cause them to be hurt and killed.

I've asked that question a number of times in public debates with vivisectors. They respond in one of two ways. They say that the question is too hard for them to answer or they simply don't understand what is being asked. You'd think that Eric Sandgren, the university's spokesperson who I have debated at least twice, would have an answer since the question always comes up, but he doesn't, I've transcribed his latest sidestep below. Paul Kaufman, the head of the UW-Hospital's ophthalmology department (he experiments on monkeys' eyes) who I have debated twice, says that the question "is above his pay grade."

The other response is telling as well. When the question was put to Jon Levine, director of the university's primate center, and primate vivisector David Abbott during a public presentation, they appeared confused. They did not understand what was being asked. The concept of similarities between humans and monkeys having ethical implications was so alien to their world view that the could only look at each other in what appeared to be complete puzzlement.

Anyway, this was Eric Sandgren's response this time:
An outstanding question, and I think the answer is embedded somewhere in, the answer that each of us would get is embedded somewhere in our sense of what other animals are like in relationship to us. So, what is a monkey compared to a human? If you consider them to be equivalent, in relevant moral ways, then you would not let this happen to those animals. If you consider them to be different, in morally relevant ways, even if they're similar, if you consider them to be different then you could allow something like that to happen. I don't know that I want to, or even could, go into a real detailed description of what are the morally relevant differences, but I do know that there's a great deal of, there are many different opinions on that. I do not feel that monkeys are the same as humans in certain ways that would allow me to decide its okay in a case like this to do it.... I think it really is based on how we view other species.
[Be sure to listen to Jeffry Kahn's follow-up.]

This sidestepping non-response from Sandgren is circular and suggests as well that he really doesn't give a hoot about humans after all. He says he can't point to the morally relevant differences between humans and monkeys and so its okay to act as if they don't exist. He says that he knows that there are many different opinions about those difference but hasn't taken the time to consider them because he really doesn't care what other people think, apparently the morally relevant differences between him and those opposed to the experiments are so great that those other opinions need not be considered or even understood well enough to be able to refute.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

UW-Madison: Playing with statistics

Date: 2014
To: [my redaction]
Cc: Rebecca Blank chancellor@news.wisc.edu
Subject: Re: From a Bascom Hill Society member

Mr. [my redaction],

On behalf of Chancellor Blank [who doesn't actually give a shit about your concerns], I wanted to respond to your message with [pretend and misleading] detailed information about research at UW-Madison.

The planned research with young monkeys is aimed at understanding how adversity early in life influences the development of the brain [and making us lots of money for redecorating the Chancellor's office]. That knowledge -- coupled with clinical work with human patients -- could provide the basis for new and better treatments [but never has] for people suffering from anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and other psychological conditions that lead to undue suffering for tens of millions of people in the United States alone.

Critics of this mission draw comparisons between the modern study and the important work done at UW-Madison decades ago by Harry Harlow. It is true that the current study, like Harlow's work, is aimed at better understanding how the brain and behavior change when early infant environments are disrupted [even though Harlow didn't study the brains of the baby monkeys he tortured]. But the current study is also fundamentally different from Harlow's work. The infant monkeys are reared with human contact [as they grab and manhandle them], with other [freaked out and abused] infant monkeys, with toys [?] and environment enrichment [like water and air]. And advances in brain imaging and chemistry allow modern UW-Madison researchers to address basic causes and associations between brain development and mental illness that Harlow would never have been able explore. [So, please ignore the fact that Ned Kalin is taking baby monkeys away from their mothers at birth for the same reason Harry Harlow did.]

A [misleading and not at all] detailed description of the research and its [ridiculous and obviously bullshit] rationale can be found here: http://animalresearch.wisc.edu/content/uploads/2013/02/narrative021213.pdf [Note: The university's link might not remain active. You can read the unattributed original document here, just in case.]

The way animal research is undertaken on our campus has also changed a great deal in the decades since Harlow was active in Madison. [Now, unlike or PR colleagues from Harlow's day, we know that filming and broadcasting the animals suffering would be a mistake.] This vital anxiety research [though the term 'vital' is completely misleading and false] has been assessed by several university committees [made up of other vivisectors] tasked with making sure that [Kalin has claimed in writing that] potentially beneficial research subjects the fewest animals to the least invasive possible measures. [That sentence needed some more editing.] As with all animal research on campus, specially trained veterinarians [whose livelihood depends on them staying quite about the animals' suffering] will care for the monkeys involved and ensure that all the work is done in accordance with [the meaningless and wildly permissive] federal regulations [nominally] enforced by the National Institutes for Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture [the two agencies in bed with us.]

We remain committed to [lying about] the humane conduct of important [sounding] biomedical research. We appreciate your willingness [to suspend all critical thought and] to consider all sides of the story before judging our work in light of rhetoric clearly intended to mislead and inflame emotions on the sensitive issue of animal-based research [that we try so hard to keep hidden.]

John Lucas
Executive Director of University Communications
608.262.8287
jplucas@wisc.edu
http://twitter.com/UWMadison

The document linked to in the letter above is something other than the "detailed" description spin-meister John Lucas claims it to be. But then very little about the university's use of animals is what it claims. This is part of the linked document they sent in response to a (now previous) financial donor who wrote with alarm and disgust over psychiatrist Ned Kalin's experiments on infant rhesus monkeys:
Mental illnesses such as anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia are extremely common, can be very disabling, and negatively impact physical health. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses and are frequently accompanied by depression and substance abuse. In addition to creating immeasurable suffering and dysfunction, the worst outcome of mental illness, suicide, is increasing and is among the leading causes of death in adolescents. Each year over 30,000 lives are lost to suicide in the United States, and worldwide suicide is the leading cause of violent deaths. It is estimated that in any 12 months 26% of the population suffers from a diagnosable mental illness. Forty-six percent of the American population will suffer from a mental illness at some point during their life. A study by the World Health Organization shows that of all the medical illnesses, mental illness and substance abuse are the most costly to society and the most disabling. Most mental illnesses have their beginnings during childhood and the earliest presentation of these problems frequently is increased levels of anxiety. Abnormal levels of childhood anxiety can greatly increase the risk for adolescent and adult mental illness.

This is pretty interesting. It makes me wonder how many people at the university reviewed these claims before making the document publicly available. It is a study in propaganda.

The claims in the statement are similar to Kalin's earlier explanations. I wrote about them here. I'm not going to repeat them, very much.

The university argues that Ned Kalin's cruel experiments are justified because mental illness is "extremely common" and "can be very disabling." Mental illness can be disabling. But it usually isn't. Only a tiny percentage of people with a mental illness are disabled and an even smaller number are very disabled.

Kalin's work is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), one of the twenty-seven Institutes and Centers that comprise the National Institutes of Health. NIMH keeps statistics and provides some explanation of the terms it uses in the course of reporting on mental health problems.

NIMH notes: "While mental disorders are common in the United States, their burden of illness is particularly concentrated among those who experience disability due to serious mental illness (SMI)." This suggests that not all people with serious mental illnesses experience disability as a result.

According to NIMH, about 4.1 percent of all U.S. adults have a serious mental illness and some of those will be disabled as a result. But the university says: "Forty-six percent of the American population will suffer from a mental illness at some point during their life." The university's claim is off by more than 131 million people.

The university says: "A study by the World Health Organization shows that of all the medical illnesses, mental illness and substance abuse are the most costly to society and the most disabling." I wrote to Mr. Lucas and asked for the title of that WHO report, but alas, he never replied. Why didn't they supply the title of the report in the letter? And Kalin doesn't claim to be studying substance abuse, so why would the university have appealed to substance abuse in its defense of Kalin's cruelty?

The university says that over 30,000 people kill themselves in the United States each year and that worldwide, suicide is the leading cause of violent deaths." That's sad, but torturing baby monkeys won't change those statistics. World Health Organization statistics help put the university's numbers in perspective: WHO, in its "The top 10 causes of death" reports that:
Ischaemic heart disease, stroke, lower respiratory infections and chronic obstructive lung disease have remained the top major killers during the past decade.

HIV deaths decreased slightly from 1.7 million (3.2%) deaths in 2000 to 1.5 million (2.7%) deaths in 2012. Diarrhoea is no longer among the 5 leading causes of death, but is still among the top 10, killing 1.5 million people in 2012.

Chronic diseases cause increasing numbers of deaths worldwide. Lung cancers (along with trachea and bronchus cancers) caused 1.6 million (2.9%) deaths in 2012, up from 1.2 million (2.2%) deaths in 2000. Similarly, diabetes caused 1.5 million (2.7%) deaths in 2012, up from 1.0 million (2.0%) deaths in 2000.

WHO makes no mention of mental illness in that report, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs310/en/

Quite simply, the claims made by the university, while not outright lies, are misleading and are probably knowingly misleading. After all, misleading people about the use of animals on campus is part of the PR department's job. Their claims are doubly bad because the university has a much greater than normal duty than most to verify that its claims are accurate and not misleading when communicating with the public. The university has an overwhelming responsibility to the citizens of Wisconsin to be honest, forthcoming, and to make the facts plain. The university is violating its public trust.

The university writes: "Based on work performed at the University of Wisconsin with young rhesus monkeys born into UW-Madison’s primate research colonies, we now know that brain alterations are at the root of early abnormal anxiety." But like the misleadingly reported statistics cited by the university, this is also misleading.

Much of Ned Kalin's NIH-funded work has been based largely on his discovery that it is possible to identify some rhesus monkeys who are more anxious and fearful than others by injecting them with them diazapam (Valium) and then scanning their brains. (See Lateralized response to diazepam predicts temperamental style in rhesus monkeys. Davidson RJ, Kalin NH, Shelton SE. Behav Neurosci. 1993.) But they did not and have not demonstrated that the monkeys without the lateralized response to Valium don't develop abnormal anxiety.

One confounding factor among a symphony of confounding factors in his experiments, is that anxiety is epidemic in the monkey labs. (See: Stereotypic and self-injurious behavior in rhesus macaques: a survey and retrospective analysis of environment and early experience. Lutz C, Well A, Novak M. Am J Primatol. 2003; and Risk factors and remediation of self-injurious and self-abuse behavior in rhesus macaques. Rommeck I, Anderson K, Heagerty A, Cameron A, McCowan B. J Appl Anim Welf Sci. 2009.) In Lutz. et al., the researchers found that essentially all the monkeys -- 321 out of the 362 animals surveyed -- had at least one abnormal behavior.

And who wouldn't be anxious in that setting? You are powerless; confined to a small space, occasionally, sometimes regularly hurt, hear others screaming, are socially isolated, and have no support group. Exactly what is the university referring to when it mentions "abnormal anxiety"? Was any of the anxiety experienced by the people in the Nazi camps abnormal? Do Kalin and the university believe that monkeys in its labs ought not be worried?

The university asserts that Kalin's prior work on young fearful monkeys not only: "demonstrates the specific parts of the brain that have altered function http://www.news.wisc.edu/15363, but also shows that this altered brain function that is important for anxiety can be inherited http://www.med.wisc.edu/28620 & http://www.med.wisc.edu/39097."

Kalin has always claimed prudently that the fearfulness he has been studying is a "trait-like" phenomena. The university tries to support its claim by pointing to two press releases linked above. The first starts out with an important qualifying remark:
A new study focused on anxiety and brain activity pinpoints the brain regions that are relevant to developing childhood anxiety. The findings, published in the August 12 edition of the journal Nature, may lead to new strategies for early detection and treatment of at-risk children.

And I might purchase the winning lottery ticket. And while it might be understandable that people working in the public relations office are somewhat ignorant about many things scientific, even they should know that a press release hyping a newly published paper isn't evidence of genuine merit. I suspect that at least some of them know that, but their actual goal isn't public education, its all about muddying the water and keeping the details and ethical implications as murky as possible.

The university's announcement from 08/11/2010 about the "new study" doesn't provide a citation or a link to the actual paper. Maybe they didn't want people reading it, or just knew that few reporters would take to the time to review it or care what it said. It's all about sound bites. The unidentified paper was Amygdalar and hippocampal substrates of anxious temperament differ in their heritability. Oler JA, Fox AS, Shelton SE, Rogers J, Dyer TD, Davidson RJ, Shelledy W, Oakes TR, Blangero J, Kalin NH. Nature. 2010 Aug 12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2998538/

Like most of Kalin's work with monkeys and rats, there doesn't seem to be much insight into what it might be like to be one of the animals he uses. The paper starts out by implying that the things they did to the monkeys used in the study were mild: "Anxious temperament (AT) in human and non-human primates is a trait-like phenotype evident early in life that is characterized by increased behavioural and physiological reactivity to mildly threatening stimuli."

Given that the paper's few readers are most likely other vivisectors, his characterization might make some sense given the spectrum of terrible things they do to animals. But from the animals' perspective, mild is probably just a sick joke.

Here's the gist:
... monkey AT was assessed using measures of threat-induced freezing behaviour and inhibited vocalizations, as well as plasma cortisol concentrations.... AT and brain metabolism were assessed when monkeys freely behaved in a test cage by themselves for 30 minutes in a potentially threatening situation in which a human “intruder” entered the room and stood 2.5 meters from the cage. During this time the intruder presented his profile to the monkey ensuring that he avoided eye contact with the animal (No Eye Contact; NEC). Animals with the greatest AT froze longer, vocalized less, and had elevated plasma cortisol levels. ....

The authors also explain it this way:
Each monkey was injected with FDG immediately preceding the No Eye Contact (NEC) challenge. During the experimental paradigm, FDG-uptake occurred and behaviors were monitored non-invasively. During NEC the animals were placed in a test-cage and a male human (the “intruder”) entered the room and stood still at a distance of 2.5 meters presenting his profile to the animal. Following 30-minutes of exposure to the experimental condition, animals were anesthetized and blood samples were taken.

From the monkey's vantage, the entire episode was probably something other than mildly threatening. Consider who the monkeys were. This is the description from Kalin et al:
All animals were mother-reared, and pair-housed at the Harlow Primate Laboratory and the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. At the time of behavioural testing/brain scans, the mean age was 2.4 years (range = 0.74 – 4.2 years), the median age was 2.34 years, there were only four animals that had reached the age of 4 years, and there were only nine animals less than 1 year of age. The typical life span of a rhesus macaque is approximately 25 years. Females reach puberty around three years old, and males reach puberty between three and 3.5 years of age (cf. Wisconsin Primate Research Center). This would correspond to a human sample of mostly prepubescent children with some peri-adolescents.

The youngest monkeys were the victims of recent trauma. It appears to be the standard practice at the university to take babies from their mothers at 6 months of age and place them with a similarly aged monkey. This is a dramatic departure from the millennia-old normal course of a rhesus macaque's life. Behavior is largely gene-mediated, a foundational claim in all of Kalin's experiments on animals. Millions of years of evolution have molded the behavior of rhesus macaques. These animals are adapted to live in large multi-generational family groups in complex environments and societies. Mothers and a single infant in a small barren metal box are profound deviations from the norm. It is a near certainty that the normal course of development, particularly emotional reactivity is profoundly altered by the near complete absence of normal social stimuli. Mothers and their daughters typically remain together for their entire lives. Mothers and their sons sometimes do as well. In the lab, the isolated mother-child pair are torn apart; the infant is put with a similarly traumatized infant. The cause of their misery is clear; giants in white coats and face masks who have them cornered and who must be recognized and reacted to by every other monkeys in the room as a threat, in fact, the only threat most of them will face.

I wonder if the Jews in the camps felt that a guard looking them was merely a mild threat?

Kalin et al claim that the "anxious temperament" they have identified is trait-like. That is, they can't identify the genes responsible for the monkeys' anxiety, but because the offspring of highly anxious monkeys are also anxious, ergo it must be genetic.

But another possibility exists. Perhaps it is simply a matter of modeling. If my mother was frightened by the approach of one of the white-clad monsters, why wouldn't I learn to be frightened too?

Our ward, Mickey, is a designer dog bred at a puppy mill in a nearby town. We adopted him from the local shelter. Once, when we had two other dogs staying over for a weekend, there was an electrical storm with lots of thunder, something fairly common in our area of the country. Prior to that weekend, Mickey had seemed relatively unconcerned by the thunder claps. But the two visiting dogs were visibly frightened. Their behavior and fear resulted in Mickey adopting a similar opinion. Now, he too is frightened by thunder. After one night of seeing other dogs being afraid. I'm not surprised that a young monkey would quickly learn from their mother to be very worried about visits from lab workers. That's not trait-like, it's simply learned and warranted wariness.

The second press release is from 10/18/2012. It starts out like this:
Decreased activity of a group of genes may explain why in young children the “fear center” of the anxious brain can’t learn to distinguish real threats from the imaginary, according to a new University of Wisconsin study.

The paper referred in the press release is Central amygdala nucleus (Ce) gene expression linked to increased trait-like Ce metabolism and anxious temperament in young primates. Fox AS, Oler JA, Shelton SE, Nanda SA, Davidson RJ, Roseboom PH, Kalin NH. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012, Oct 30. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3497741/

I'm always amazed at the gibberish that is passed off as science among vivisectors. Kalin et al: "The rhesus monkey is ideal for studying the origin of human AT because these species share the genetic, neural, and phenotypic underpinnings of complex social and emotional functioning (5–10)."

First, we actually have only the most sparse understanding of the genetics underpinning complexities like social and emotional functioning. Complexity and complicated are not synonyms. Complex systems are not good models of each other. But, as I mentioned above, the realities of laboratory incarceration negate the expression of the complex social and emotional functioning in humans that Kalin mistakenly claims are modeled by profoundly deprived rhesus monkeys.

In the six citations provided by Kalin et al as supporting evidence for their claims, not one of them supports their claim of some shared genetic underpinning of social or emotional functioning. None. Not one. Kalin makes claims apparently, and then points to 'evidence' that he must assume no one will review.

--- Let me pause here for a moment to mention that this phenomena is apparently widespread and fully understood and accepted by insiders. One of the times I debated primate vivisector Paul Kaufman, UW-Madison's Ophthalmology department head, I called attention to his wild claims about the need and importance for finding better treatments for near-sightedness. Reading glasses do a pretty good job already, I said, and experimenting on the eyes of monkeys was needlessly cruel. Kaufman replied that his claims, which I had quoted from his grant, should not be taken seriously; they were mere grantsmanship. When I pushed the point, moderator Robert Streiffer, "bio-ethicist" and critic of the Kalin project, stopped further discussion. He and the rest of the panel of "experts" asking us questions seemed to fully understand that the rhetoric used in grants (and publications?) is just so much blather. ---

Equally silly is their next claim: Importantly, the rhesus developmental model bridges the critical gap between human psychopathology and rodent models, allowing for translation to humans by using in vivo imaging measures and translation to rodents by using ex vivo molecular methods. Thus, the unique hypotheses that can be generated from the rhesus model are invaluable in guiding both imaging studies in children and mechanistic efforts in rodents.

You can be excused for not noticing the spin and absurdity in that statement.

After a scathing 2003 editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association titled "Translating Biomedical Research to the Bedside: A National Crisis and a Call to Action," the term "translation" quickly became a buzz word among those tying to justify the use of animals. Numerous "Centers" and "Institutes" for the translation of basic science -- a euphemism for animal experimentation -- have been started around the country, as if doing so could improve the translation rate. The UW Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, created in 2007 apparently, is a local example. "Translation" has become a sort of talisman; if it is chanted long enough, maybe it will come to pass. See too: Evolution and translation of research findings: from bench to where? Ioannidis JP. PLoS Clin Trials. 2006.

The primary purported justification of Kalin's experiments on monkeys, written by him, one of his collaborating students, or a university PR hack, is based on statistics regarding the incidence of mental illnesses. Their purported justifications rest on claims about the incidence of mental illness that do not withstand even cursory inspection. They are not being honest. It appears to me that they are knowingly dishonest. Money has a well known corrupting influence on people's behavior. In this case, the millions of dollars of other people's given to Kalin and the university by the other vivisectors who comprise the NIH committee that sanctions his projects is a mere data point in the flood of taxpayer dollars pouring into the university coffers from NIH. The university defends every funded project because they fear that even one admission of error could be the hole in the dam that leads to a financial catastrophe for them.

The simple fact that they have written a PR piece to foist off on donors who contact them about Kalin et al's cruelty is an indication that many people are writing in alarm and disgust. But the university can't back down. NIH can't back down. It would be like the Nazis having said that they had made a mistake about trying to achieve racial purity.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Young Monkeys and Children

UW-Madison vivisector Ned Kalin, and by extension every supporter of his use of infant rhesus monkeys to model early adversity in children, have terminally muddled notions about monkeys and humans.

If you read the public relations rhetoric from the university you'll see all sorts of silly and (probably) knowingly misleading claims. One of the silliest is that putting an infant monkey in an incubator is no different than putting an infant human in an incubator. Imagine putting a young goldfish in an incubator; the poor thing wouldn't last very long.

This might come as news to the university egg-heads, but, like fish, infant humans have different needs than infant rhesus macaques. Infant humans can be set down without causing them serious trauma. This isn't true for infant macaques and most other infant primates.

Infant monkeys either hang on to their mother or die. The psychological need to cling to their mother is a deep and genetically driven response to their natural history. It isn't shared with humans. At any moment, a mother monkey might leap through the forest canopy or rush up a tree. If the infant releases his or her grip, their life is likely over.

Monkeys are active semi-arboreal animals while humans are plodding fully terrestrial animals. There probably isn't a more stressful experience for an infant rhesus monkey than being pulled from his or her mother. Taking a human infant from his or her mother is not at all similar.

The physical pulling of an infant monkey from his or her mother may be the most distressing thing anyone can do to an infant rhesus monkey. After the separation, any other cruelty is just salt in the wound.

Because this particular psychological need and experience isn't shared by humans it is improbable that the resulting changes in a baby monkey's brain chemistry are meaningfully similar to what happens in a child's brain when he or she experiences a completely different kind of adverse event. Claims that there are meaningful similarities are little more than appeals to alchemy. It's just BS.

Kalin's cruelty exacerbates the already profound differences in the neurobiology of human's and rhesus monkeys' brains. After being socially isolated for a month or so, the infants are paired with other infants who were also taken from their mothers and isolated. All the monkeys are males. It is well established that male rhesus monkeys are much more negatively impacted by laboratory conditions and isolation than are females. Infant monkeys need to cling, and when they have only each other, they cling tightly together. Periodically, Kalin pulls them apart and separates them, re-wounding them in a way similar to their initial removal from their mother. While isolated, he frightens them in various ways, none of which would bother a human child of the same age, because humans aren't repetitively traumatized monkeys.

Kalin claims that a human child who is abused and a traumatized infant monkey have similar brain chemistry as a result of their different experiences. I doubt that he believes his own claims. He must chuckle to himself over that absurdity and the willingness of others to look like fools or ignoramuses by defending it. Although he nominally claims to be looking for some new molecular pathway that might be modified in some unknown way by some future drug that will cure or vaccinate children from the occasional bad effects of poor, or neglectful, or abusive parenting, I suspect that he is actually hoping only to find yet another patentable molecular pathway that he can add to his and university's portfolio of similar patents. It really is all about money. His decades of hurting, frightening, and killing young monkeys has never resulted in anything of benefit to human patients. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zippo. It won't this time either.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Doctor Says Maternal Deprivation Research is Unethical Promotion of Mind-Altering Drug Use for All At-Risk Children.

Dr. Francis Collins, Director
National Institutes of Health

Michael Gottesman, M.D.
Deputy Director for Intramural Research

Dear Doctors:

It has recently come to my attention that researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Intramural Research Program are using maternal deprivation to study anxiety and depression in infant macaques. As a pediatric psychiatrist who has treated abused and neglected children, and who is concerned about the welfare of primates used in research as well as the welfare of my patients, I am particularly interested in this issue. Dr. Stephen J. Suomi, leader of the project, offered this explanation to CBS News:

"These findings assist researchers in identifying humans most likely to suffer negative effects in at-risk situations and develop behavioral and drug therapies to improve negative outcomes early in development." http://www.cbsnews.com/news/mental-health-experiments-on-baby-monkeys-at-federal-nih-labs/

Perhaps more than any other medical specialty, pediatric psychiatry is an art as much as it is a science. As children are constantly growing and developing, their symptoms require frequent reassessment, and their treatment plans must continually be revised and updated. Clinical psychiatrists already know that children respond to psychotropic medications with great variability and unpredictability, and that the side effects of these medications can be debilitating. For these reasons, I believe that it is unethical and inappropriate for any physician to recommend the use of psychotropic medications in children who are "at risk" but have not yet been medically diagnosed with a DSM-5 psychiatric disorder. In his 2002 research paper on childhood predictors of anxiety, Dr. Jerome Kagan concluded with a note of caution:

"It is also important to note that a high-reactive temperament protects the child from engaging in risky behavior -whether drugs, driving at high speeds, or temptation for delinquent, behavior. Thus, the child with a high-reactive temperament has some advantages in our society and parents of such infants might decide not to change their child's behavior when the next set of pharmacological advances permits them that choice." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181685/

Identifying children who are at risk for the development of mood and anxiety disorders is a great idea, as is the use of family support and individual counseling as preventive medicine. However, there are many researchers successfully working on these issues with human subjects, utilizing low-risk and non-invasive functional brain scans which make the use of animal models obsolete. And unlike monkey researchers, who have yet to propose a single new treatment for psychiatric patients despite decades of experiments and promises, researchers who study humans can often give us useful information immediately. For example, from a 2011 study of human beings with inhibited temperament:

"Thus, a sustained amygdala response to newly familiar people may be one cause of social anxiety in inhibited individuals. This finding may also have implications for prevention or intervention. For individuals with temperament-based risk for social anxiety, increased exposure to human faces through traditional exposure therapy or through computer-based training may enhance amygdala habituation and reduce social anxiety." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3190202/

I urge NIH to put an end to all maternal deprivation psychiatric research in primates, as an unnecessary use of animal models as well as an unethical promotion of the use of psychotropic medications in asymptomatic children. I have additionally contacted my representatives in the United States Congress and asked them to investigate why our public tax dollars continue to fund these studies when they do nothing to help human patients.

Sincerely,

Sujatha Ramakrishna, M.D

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I just can't resist... war is peace.

The Dane County Board executive committee's decision to indefinitely postpone any decision on the matter of Resolution 275 was covered as a news item in the Isthmus, the paper that finally published an article on Ned Kalin's revival of maternal deprivation and emotional torment as a means to create infant monkey "models" of human depression. You can read the front page article here: Motherless monkeys: UW-Madison to revive controversial primate experiments. Noah Phillips. 07/31/2014.

Doublethink is alive and well in the exalted towers of academia. The executive committee, four present, two absent,was presented with nearly two hours of comment from seventeen people; three people with a financial interest in the use of animals at the university were the only ones who spoke in opposition. The committee then deliberated. Note: indefinitely postponing a decision on an agenda item is intended to kill it. A vote against an item allows it to move out of committee and then be considered by another committee, just as a vote in favor would do. Indefinitely postponing a decision is a way to circumvent further discussion and undermines our democratic system of governance. This is a transcript of the executive committee's entire public deliberation. As one observer noted afterwards, "How very embarrassing for the board."

Chair, Sharon Corrigan: We just have a few minutes, but before we can continue, could we, to discuss it, is there a motion on the resolution? Is there a motion?

Supervisor Mary Kolar: Move to table, based on, uh, we've only heard, so...

Corrigan: The motion would be to postpone indefinitely?

Kolar: [Nods in agreement.] I move to postpone indefinitely.

Corrigan: Is there a second to postpone indefinitely?

Supervisor Dave Ripp: Second.

Corrigan: Is there discussion?

Supervisor Carousel Bayrd who represents the UW Research Park and lives a couple of streets away from Eric Sandgren: [Mumbles something unclear]

Corrigan: If there's no motion it would be the same impact. [Looks around, then back at Supervisor Kolar] Do you want to...

Kolar: Postpone indefinitely.

Corrigan: All those in favor?

All: Aye.

Corrigan: Opposed?

Corrigan: The motion is approved and it is postponed.

Afterwards, speaking to the Isthmus reporter, chief UW vivisection spin-doctor Eric Sandgren said: "Tonight was a victory for public discussion."

They spew this crap with a straight face and utter disdain for the truth. Unbelievable but true. War is peace.