Saturday, June 30, 2007

William A. Mason's Ordinary Sensibilities

According to his UC Davis webpage, Professor Emeritus William A. (Bill) Mason has served as the President of the American Society of Primatologists (ASP) and of the International Primatological Society (ISP).

Presumably, his research is fairly representative of studies deemed significant and appropriate by these organizations.

According to Debra Blum’s Love at Goon Park, a biography of Harlow, Mason said of his teacher, that he...
kept this [the isolation rearing] going to the point where it was clear to many people that the work was really violating ordinary sensibilities, that anybody with respect for life or people would find this offensive. It's as if he sat down and said, “I'm only going to be around another ten years. What I'd like to do, then, is leave a great big mess behind.” If that was his aim, he did a perfect job. (Blum, Deborah. The Monkey Wars. Oxford University Press, 1994, p. 96.)
Mason worked at Harlow’s lab between 1954 and 1959.

Blum’s readers could reasonably be expected to come away from such a quotation with the belief that Mason is a scientist with “ordinary sensibilities” and “respect for life,” and that he would find studies like Harlow’s (and Suomi’s) "offensive." But his definitions of ordinary sensibilities and respect for life are twisted unrecognizable versions of what most people would think of when hearing those terms. (The fact that Blum left this impression with readers says something about her journalistic integrity.)

Mason is proud of his work. He lists 194 of his publications on his webpage. His publication list is filled with cruelty and suffering.

Harlow published his last papers in the mid 1970’s (and one in 1980, a year before his death.) His last papers included “Effects of maternal and peer separations on young monkeys,” “Depressive behavior in adult monkeys following separation from family environment,” and “Induced depression in monkeys,” among others. So, what was Mason up to around the time when anybody with ordinary sensibilities and a respect for life was beginning to find Harlow’s work offensive?

In the mid 1960s, Mason was hard at work emulating Harlow with studies like “Situation and stimulus effects on steroetyped behaviors of chimpanzees” and “Behavior of rhesus monkeys raised in isolation” both published in 1963. He published “Effects of rearing conditions on distress vocalizations in chimpanzees” in 1965.

In 1973, he published “Effects of artificial mothers and visual experience on adrenal responsiveness of infant monkeys.”

In 1975, he published “Effects of maternal mobility on the development of rocking and other behaviors in rhesus monkeys: a study with artificial mothers.” (Mason WA, Berkson G. Dev Psychobiol. 1975 May;8(3):197-211.) here’s the abstract:
Mechanically driven mobile artificial mothers effectively prevented the development of stereotyped body-rocking in rhesus monkeys. Monkeys were maternally separated at birth and assigned to 2 groups. Both groups were placed with surrogates, identical in construction except that for 1 group the surrogate was in motion 50% of the time from 0500 hours to 2400 hours each day, and for the other group the surrogate was stationary. All but 1 of the 10 monkeys raised with stationary artificial mothers developed rocking as an habitual pattern whereas none of the 9 monekys raised with mobile mothers did so. The data also suggest that emotional responsiveness was reduced in monkeys raised with mobile mothers, compared to monkeys raised with stationary devices.
Didn’t Mason know by this time that raising monkeys alone with only inanimate surrogate mothers wounded their psyches?

In 1978 he was still raising monkeys in deprived conditions:

“Competitive social strategies in groups of deprived and experienced rhesus monkeys.” (Dev Psychobiol. 1978 Jul;11(4):289-99.)
Behavior during competition for water was observed in 2 social groups of young rhesus monkeys (3 females, 3 males in each). Monkeys in one group were socially deprived and those in the other were socially experienced (raised with mother and agemates). Social status, based on dyadic recording of displacements at the water bottle, was predictive of a number of measures related to water consumption and social orientation in both groups, but this measure was less reliable and predictive for the experienced group than for the deprived groups, but this measure was less reliable and predictive for the experienced group than for the deprived group. A major reason for the comparatively low predictive value and reliability of status among experienced monkeys was their ability to influence the behavior of higher status members through responses directed to a 3rd party and other elaborate social strategies, many of which depended on responding to status relations between 2nd and 3rd parties. The fact that such strategies were only observed in the experienced group is a clear indication that the development of higher orders of social cognition is dependent on early social experience.
Here’s a real gem from 1979. Let’s test your own monkey psychology prediction skills before you read Mason’s summary. Consider this: Raise a monkey with only a dog or only an inanimate "surrogate" for between 18 and 30 months. Which monkey will be most aware of his or her surroundings? Which monkey will engage in self-directed behaviors more? (Self-directed behavior is jargon for things like self-biting, pulling out one’s hair, penis sucking, or any of many other bizarre signs of mental illness.)

“Contrasts in visual responsiveness and emotional arousal between rhesus monkeys raised with living and those raised with inanimate substitute mothers.” Wood BS, Mason WA, Kenney MD. J Comp Physiol Psychol. 1979 Apr;93(2):368-77.
Rhesus monkeys were raised with dogs or inanimate surrogates in outdoor cages which provided them with complex, highly varied visual surroundings. Visual responsiveness to a variety of colored transparencies was investigated in three experiments, completed when the monkeys were between 18 and 30 mo old. Results indicated that the frequency and duration of looking at slides was significantly higher for dog-raised than for inanimate-surrogate-raised monkeys and that dog-raised monkeys were much more responsive to the novelty, complexity, ansal [sic] were obtained during the final experiment. Heart rate, vocalization, and changes in plasma cortisol were higher for monkeys raised with dogs. The frequency of most self-directed behaviors, however, was higher for monkeys raised with inanimate surrogates. Differences between rearing groups can only be the result of contrasts in attributes of the substitute mothers.
I wonder whether people with ordinary sensibilities and a respect for life would have been offended that Mason was conducting these experiments. Thirty months of isolation, just to see what happens doesn’t seem very different from much of Harlow’s work.

And what would a person with ordinary sensibilities do upon (yet more) unequivocal evidence that being raised alone, with no other living creature, screws up a monkey’s mind? Mason must have felt that the sensitive thing for a person like himself to do, a person with a respect for life, would be to leave monkeys in those woeful situations.

Formation and expression of filial attachment in rhesus monkeys raised with living and inanimate mother substitutes. Mason WA, Capitanio JP. (Dev Psychobiol. 1988 Jul;21(5):401-30.)
The formation and expression of filial attachment was investigated in rhesus monkeys raised with dogs or inanimate mother substitutes in a longitudinal study spanning the first 4 years of life. At 2 months monkeys were identified within each rearing group as strongly attached or weakly attached, as measured by proximity, contact and clinging to the mother substitute in the living cage and in a novel room, and by differences in levels of distress vocalization and heart rate when they were alone and in the presence of the substitute mother in a novel room. By 4 months, all monkeys were attached, and the strongly attached and weakly attached monkeys of the first age-period were no longer distinguishable on any measure. The attachment was specific to the substitute mother. It was not exclusive, however, inasmuch as similar responses were elicited by a stranger of the same type as the substitute mother, although the stranger was less effective. The attachment figure was also influential when it could be seen but not touched. Evidence of attachment to the substitute mothers persisted until the end of testing at 44 months. Comparison of rearing groups support the hypothesis that the principal effect of living and inanimate mother substitutes is on responsiveness, rather than on the attachment process per se.
It’s noteworthy that John P. Capitanio, Mason’s coauthor in the above paper, also has served as president of the American Society of Primatologists. He may be the subject of a future essay.

Here’s a totally whacked study:

“Social stress results in altered glucocorticoid regulation and shorter survival in simian acquired immune deficiency syndrome.” Capitanio JP, Mendoza SP, Lerche NW, Mason WA. (Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Apr 14;95(8):4714-9.)
From early in the AIDS epidemic, psychosocial stressors have been proposed as contributors to the variation in disease course. To test this hypothesis, rhesus macaques were assigned to stable or unstable social conditions and were inoculated with the simian immunodeficiency virus. Animals in the unstable condition displayed more agonism and less affiliation, shorter survival, and lower basal concentrations of plasma cortisol compared with stable animals. Early after inoculation, but before the emergence of group differences in cortisol levels, animals receiving social threats had higher concentrations of simian immunodeficiency virus RNA in plasma, and those engaging in affiliation had lower concentrations. The results indicate that social factors can have a significant impact on the course of immunodeficiency disease. Socially induced changes in pituitary-adrenal hormones may be one mechanism mediating this relationship.
And another; this builds on the cruelty from the 1988 paper above:

Cognitive style: problem solving by rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) reared with living or inanimate substitute mothers. Capitanio JP, Mason WA. (J Comp Psychol. 2000 Jun;114(2):115-25.)

Capitanio and Mason explain their General Method:

The subjects were 6 male and 6 femail rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) whose rearing histories have been detailed elsewhere (Capitanio, 1984; Mason & Capitanio 1988). Briefly, each monkey was separated from its mother within 24 hr of birth and was reared individually for 14-18 days with a cloth-covered heating pad, after which the infant was introduced to a “substitute mother,” either an adult mongrel dog or a plastic hobbyhorse wrapped with acrylic fur around its midsection. Continuous cohabitation with the substitute mother (hereinafter referred to as the kennel mate [KM]) began at a mean age of 41 days. All monkeys lived individually with their KMs in outdoor kennels measuring 3.0 m X 1.2 m X 1.8 m and containing a metal hutch (71 cm x 86 cm x 69 cm) equipped with a wood floor and thermostatically controlled heat lamp. [Was the dog a Chihuahua?] To provide all monkeys with a varied and stimulating environment, each animal was exposed (with is KM present) for a total of 143 hr, between the ages of 3 and 15 months, to five complex outdoor enclosures, each containing a variety of puzzles, toys, and climbing devices. Social testing (involving a total of 167 hr per monkey consisting of free conspecific interaction) began when the animals were 3.3 years old and lasted until they were 5.7 years old. The monkeys were separated from their KMs at a mean age of 3.7 years and were housed individually from that time. Beginning at 4.8 years of age, the monkeys lived in outdoor aluminum cages measuring 74 cm x 74 cm x 86 cm. Four the four experiments reported here, the monkeys’ mean ages were 1.0, 3.1 6.8, and 7.1 years old respectively. (p 116.)
Can you imagine the conversations Capitanio and Mason must have had?
“How interesting that a monkey raised with a dog is less screwed up than a monkey raised with a plastic hobby horse.”

“Yes, we really are ASP president material. Our measurements are so exact. This is critical research.”

“That Harlow was one messed up character! Glad we’re not like him.”
What total dicks.

Here’s some more important work by these prestigious primatologists:

“Increased social fear and decreased fear of objects in monkeys with neonatal amygdala lesions.” Prather MD, Lavenex P, Mauldin-Jourdain ML, Mason WA, Capitanio JP, Mendoza SP, Amaral DG. (Neuroscience. 2001;106(4):653-8.)
The amygdala has been implicated in the mediation of emotional and species-specific social behavior. Humans with bilateral amygdala damage are impaired in judging negative emotion in facial expressions and making accurate judgements of trustworthiness. Amygdala dysfunction has also been implicated in human disorders ranging from social anxiety to depression to autism. We produced selective amygdala lesions in 2-week-old macaque monkeys who were returned to their mothers for rearing. At 6-8 months of age, the lesioned animals demonstrated less fear of novel objects such as rubber snakes than age-matched controls. However, they displayed substantially more fear behavior than controls during dyadic social interactions. These results suggest that neonatal amygdala lesions dissociate a system that mediates social fear from one that mediates fear of inanimate objects. Furthermore, much of the age-appropriate repertoire of social behavior was present in amygdala-lesioned infants indicating that these lesions do not produce autistic-like behavior in monkeys. Finally, amygdala lesions early in development have different effects on social behavior than lesions produced in adulthood.
The paper below is available in full. (Josef Mengele, a person with similar ordinary sensibilities and respect for life would certainly approved.)

The development of mother-infant interactions after neonatal amygdala lesions in rhesus monkeys.” Bauman MD, Lavenex P, Mason WA, Capitanio JP, Amaral DG. J Neurosci. 2004 Jan 21;24(3):711-21.

And here’s a very recent bit of Mason’s common sensibility and respect for life:

The expression of social dominance following neonatal lesions of the amygdala or hippocampus in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). Bauman MD, Toscano JE, Mason WA, Lavenex P, Amaral DG. (Behav Neurosci. 2006 Aug;120(4):749-60.)
As part of ongoing studies on the neurobiology of socioemotional behavior in the nonhuman primate, the authors examined the social dominance hierarchy of juvenile macaque monkeys (Macaca mulatta) that received bilateral ibotenic acid lesions of the amygdala or the hippocampus or a sham surgical procedure at 2 weeks of age. The subjects were reared by their mothers with daily access to large social groups. Behavioral observations were conducted while monkeys were given access to a limited preferred food. This testing situation reliably elicited numerous species-typical dominance behaviors. All subjects were motivated to retrieve the food when tested individually. However, when a group of 6 monkeys was given access to only 1 container of the preferred food, the amygdala-lesioned monkeys had less frequent initial access to the food, had longer latencies to obtain the food, and demonstrated fewer species-typical aggressive behaviors. They were thus lower ranking on all indices of social dominance. The authors discuss these findings in relation to the role of the amygdala in the establishment of social rank and the regulation of aggression and fear.
Traditionally, the American Society of Primatologists has been led by mentally ill sadists if their research publications are any judge. Sadly and disappointingly, many of the ASP members are people with common sensibilities and a respect for life. But these members remain quiet about the cruel and meaningless experiments conducted by their fellow members and the ASP leadership. Primatology must attract not only sadists but cowards as well.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Stephen John Suomi: A Lifetime of Sadism

Of all the authors and presenters at the 2007 ASP conference, the most prolific, with 17 separate titles, was Stephen John Suomi.

Suomi is the Head of the NIH National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Laboratory of Comparative Ethology, a monkey lab.

Stephen Suomi is, perhaps, the most well known of Harry F. Harlow’s PhD students. Melinda Novak and Gene Sackett, also Harlow’s grad students, made presentations as well.

[Suomi’s PhD committee included Charles T. Snowdon who also made a number of presentations. Snowdon was a primate vivisector at the University of Wisconsin and was the subject of fawning admiration at the ASP conference.
[Session 3: Outstanding Mentor Symposium honoring Chuck Snowdon
Organizer: Anne Savage



But this essay is about Stephen J. Suomi.

The title of Suomi’s 1971 doctoral thesis is Experimental Production of Depressive Behavior in Young Monkeys.

The following quoted passages come from that document. The two images are from “From thought to therapy: lessons from a primate laboratory.” Harlow HF, Harlow MK, Suomi SJ. Am Sci. 1971 Sep-Oct;59(5):538-49.
The goal of this research was the production in young monkeys of behaviors similar to those exhibited during the despair stage of maternal separation but for longer periods of time, in different situations, and among monkeys subjected to a variety of rearing conditions.
The primary purpose of the first experiment was to determine if the protest-despair-recovery reaction exhibited by monkeys separated from their mothers would be elicited via separation procedures not involving monkey mothers
2 male and 2 female rhesus monkeys were separated from their mothers at birth and reared for the first 15 days of life in a laboratory nursery.

At 15 days old they were placed as a group in a cage 6’ x 3’ x 4’ with 2 blocks of wood and 2 plastic balls (called play objects), and 4 towels.

At 90 days old, the first series of separations was begun.

The four monkeys were separated from one another and housed in wire mesh cages 2.5 x 2.5 x 2.5 for four days. The monkeys could see and hear each other, but could not make physical contact. Each cage had one play object and one towel.

They were then returned to their group for 3 days.

This went on for 12 weeks. Isolated for 4 days, reunited for 3 days. Isolated for 4 days, reunited for 3 days.

At 6 months old, they were returned to their group cage for 6 weeks, after which they went through 8 more weeks of isolation and reunion.
Three clear-cut findings emerged from this study.

First, the reaction to maternal separation previously described for both human and monkey infants were clearly exhibited during the weekly separation cycles by the experimental subjects.

Second, the monkeys did not adapt to the multiple separations. For each separation series the monkeys reactions to the latter separations were at least as severe as their reactions to the first separations in the series.

Finally, an overall effect of the repetitive separations was an almost complete arrest of maturation of social behaviors in the monkeys.
Were the monkeys depressed?

Only a qualified yes may be given. Certainly the behaviors exhibited during the latter part of each separation—the high levels of passive self-directed behavior and the low levels of locomotion and exploration—paralleled the description of withdrawal among human children in analogous situations while the maturational arrest in monkeys has a possible parallel in the human retardation of development.
The technique of repetitive infant-infant separation yielded promising results for production of a depressive syndrome in monkey subjects.
A special device was built…this apparatus was termed the vertical chamber.
4 rhesus monkeys. One male 15 months old, one male 6 months old, one female 13 months old, and one female 9 months old were separated from their mothers at birth. They were individually housed in a bare 2.5 x 2.5 x 2.5 wire mesh cage, where they could see and hear, but not have physical contact with the other monkeys.

Each subject was placed alone in the vertical chamber for 20 days, then returned to his or her home cage for 7 days.

Then the monkey was put back in the chamber for 10 days and then returned to his or her home cage.
Vertical chamber confinement had a profound and prolonged effect upon the subjects’ behaviors.
Self-clasping, rocking and huddling had dramatic increases following their return to the home cage after each period of chamber confinement.
Locomotion dropped sharply following vertical chamber confinement. Environmental exploration was virtually absent. These behaviors did not dissipate over time.
Behavioral changes of a striking nature could be rapidly produced via vertical chamber confinement. Altered levels of behaviors persisted long after the subjects had been removed from the chambers.
On the basis of the findings of the previous experiment, I decided to compare the psychopathology- producing potential of the vertical chamber apparatus with the isolation procedures.
Suomi explained that monkeys were to be reared for the first three months of their lives within the vertical chambers, then subjected to extensive post incarceration testing to determine if any lasting behavioral anomalies would be disclosed. However, it was discovered that infant monkeys could not be maintained effectively in a vertical chamber until they are 45 days old. The decision was made to incarcerate subjects beginning at this age for a total of 45 days.

4 male rhesus monkeys were separated from their mothers at birth. They spent the first 45 days of life in a lab nursery.

At 45 days of age each subject was placed in the vertical chamber for 45 days (6.5 weeks.) They were then removed from the vertical chamber and placed in a bare wire mesh cage.
The results of experiment 3 indicated that the 45-day period of vertical chamber confinement early in life produced severe and prolonged psychopathological behavior of a depressive nature in the rhesus monkey subjects.
After being removed from the chambers, the monkeys self-clasped and huddled at enormously elevated levels. The monkeys locomoted and explored significantly less than both control groups and exhibited essentially no socially directed behaviors. Their behaviors could be described as a “severe caricature of the despair stage exhibited by monkeys separated from mothers or peers.”
It is clear that behavioral disturbances of a stable and lasting nature were produced by vertical chamber confinement of a remarkably short time. The further use of vertical chamber incarceration as a technique for production of depressive behavior thus seemed justified.
Having established that the use of the vertical chamber was an effective technique for production in monkeys of psychopathological behavior of a depressive nature, the next step was to combine the manipulation of chamber incarceration with separation procedures. A logical combination was repetitive peer separation involving chamber confinement during the periods of separation.
4 rhesus monkeys, 2 male and 2 female, were separated from their mothers at birth, reared in laboratory nursery for first 15 days of life.

At age 15 days, monkeys were placed in a group of 4 in a cage 6 x 3 x 4 with four cloth towels, and two balls and two pieces of wood. They were undisturbed until they were three months old.

At 3 months of age, the monkeys spent 4 days of separation, three days of reunion, then 4 days of separation, then 3 days of reunion. This occurred 12 times.
Like experiment 1, they then had a 6-week reunion followed by 8 more weeks of the separation-reunion routine.
However, when separated, the monkeys were not individually housed in single cages as in the first experiment. Instead they were placed in individual vertical chambers where they could hear, but neither see nor touch each other.
The monkeys in this study were subjected to 20 four-day periods of separation during which they were confined to vertical chambers. The monkeys were not observed when they were confined to the vertical chambers.

Monkeys confined to the vertical chamber during repetitive infant-infant separation exhibited protest, despair, and recovery reactions to separation and showed severe maturational arrest.

The monkeys vocalized at exceedingly high levels and moved about inside the vertical chambers for approximately the first day of each separation.

By the third and fourth days of separations, however, the monkeys typically assumed a huddling position in a corner of the chamber.
Chamber confinement made socially abnormal more abnormal while causing relatively normal subjects to become far less normal.
My goal of the reliable production of stable depressive syndromes in young monkey subjects was attained by these studies.

Experimentation with therapeutic agents and techniques utilizing human patients is seriously hampered by lack of experimental control and by sound ethical constraints. No such problems exist for the monkey researcher.

My research has demonstrated that depressive behavior of a stable and lasting form can be induced reliably in young monkey subjects. Having established the behavioral basis for an animal model it is now the task of further research to make the experimental model useful.”

Here is one of the papers presented at the 2007 ASP conference:

M. L. Schwandt (1), T. K. Newman (2), S. J. Suomi (3), J. D. Higley (4), M. Heilig (1) and C. S. Barr (1)

(1) NIH/NIAAA, Laboratory of Clinical and Translational Studies, PO Box 529, Poolesville, MD, 20837, USA, (2) University of Cape Town, South Africa, (3) NIH/NICHD, Laboratory of Comparative Ethology, (4) Brigham Young University, Department of Psychology

Recent studies in humans have found associations between a polymorphism in the monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) promoter region and depression and anxiety disorders. In this study we investigated the effects of MAOA genotype and early rearing experience on the behavioral response to social separation stress in infant rhesus macaques. Six-month old monkeys (n=157; 89 females, 78 males) underwent four consecutive four-day long separations, with each followed by three days of reunion. Peer-reared (PR) monkeys were separated from their peers, while mother-reared (MR) monkeys were separated from their mothers. Behavioral data were collected and subjected to factor analysis and analysis of variance (ANOVA). Genotypes were clustered based on MAOA enzymatic activity (high vs. low). There were significant interactions of rearing and genotype on “depression” (inactivity and self-directed behaviors) in both males."

Thirty-five years after “earning” his doctorate, Suomi continues to separate baby monkeys from their mothers and document the results. Suomi is a highly regarded primate researcher; highly regarded by other sadists also calling themselves primatologists.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The American Society of Primatologists

Mental illness is a common response to powerlessness in situations involving torture, social isolation, separation, and/or moderate to extreme deprivation. This phenomenon is well known from studies of human torture victims, solitary confinement of prisoners, and institutionalized children.

Such induced mental illness has been demonstrated experimentally in mice, rats, dogs, and many other species including various primates. The primate vivisection community claims that the research they conduct is humane.

Jordana Lenon, for instance, says on her homepage:
I have been public information officer at the [Wisconsin National] Primate Research Center for six years. I love the writing, working with the media and visitors, and learning more about people's experiences and beliefs. My experience is that, by far, most people support progress in medical research using animals and know we treat our animals well.
The Oregon National Primate Research Center says:
We give the monkeys toys, rotated on a biweekly basis to provide novel stimuli, that promote exploration. The monkeys have the opportunity to watch television and listen to the radio.
The American Society of Primatologists (ASP) says:
There has been a great deal of interest in determining the conditions under which captive nonhuman primates display 'psychological well-being', and how their well-being can be enhanced.
(The statement above was written by past ASP president John Capitanio, a primate vivisector at the California National Primate Research Center.

ASP held its 2007 annual conference on June 20-23, in Winston-Salem, NC. It was hosted by the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, with a 1,089 size monkey colony (2006 data, the most recent available.) The conference schedule, along with abstracts of the oral and poster presentations, is available on the ASP website.

No one critical of the use of monkeys was allowed to attend.

Public posturing by primate vivisectors always includes claims that primate experimentation is humane. But, in fact, typical laboratory conditions are anything but humane and result in mental illness. This is a real similarity between humans and the monkeys and apes kept in captive situation, especially at the primate labs.

The primate vivisectors acknowledge these problems among themselves; it's not that they care about the animals any more than a mechanic cares for a car, but that mentally ill monkeys require increased veterinary care. The mental illness associated with captivity in a laboratory setting manifests as stereotypic behaviors, or stereotypies, such as repetitive rocking or cage circling, self-directed threats, self-wounding (self-injurious behavior – SIB), severe over-grooming, penis sucking, and various bizarre behaviors.

Below, are the titles of oral and poster presentations from the 2007 ASP conference that were associated with the widespread mental illnesses induced by this inherently cruel industry.

C. K. Lutz, E. B. Davis, J. S. Meyer, S. J. Suomi, M. A. Novak

K. L. Bentson, H. Bielefeldt-Ohmann, A. Chicz-DeMet, C. A. Sandman, C. M. Crockett

M. A. Novak, M. D. Davenport, C. K. Lutz, J. S. Meyer

J. D. Higley, E. Davis, R. A. Woodward, S. J. Suomi

J. Henderson, K. Coleman, C. L. Bethea

M. B. Fontenot, G. M. Anderson

K. A. Jarvis, J. E. Gould

J. Vandeleest, J. Capitanio, B. McCowan

M. A. Maloney, K. C. Baker, C. Griffis, K. Neu, M. Bloomsmith, M. Martinez

C. Griffis, K. C. Baker, M. A. Bloomsmith, K. A. Neu, M. A. Maloney, M. Martinez, J. C. Griffis

M. L. Schwandt, T. K. Newman, S. J. Suomi, J. D. Higley, M. Heilig, C. S. Barr

P. Pierre, S. J. Suomi, A. J. Bennett

A. M. Dettmer, A. M. Ruggiero, M. D. Davenport, M. A. Novak, J. S. Meyer, S. J. Suomi

K. Chisholm, M. Schwandt, J. D. Higley, S. J. Suomi, M. Heilig, C. S. Barr

A. W. Clay, M. A. Bloomsmith, M. J. Marr, T. L. Maple

C. M. Crockett, K. L. Bentson, R. U. Bellanca

I. Rommeck, B. McCowan, J. P. Capitanio, N. W. Lerche

D. B. Hanbury, S. L. Watson, C. R. Broach

C. Griffis, M. A. Bloomsmith, K. C. Baker, K. A. Neu, M. Martinez, J. C. Griffis

E. B. Davis, K. L. Chisholm, J. D. Higley, C. S. Barr, R. A. Woodward, J. M. Schech, S. J. Suomi

K. C. Baker

M. A. Novak, M. D. Davenport, C. K. Lutz, J. S. Meyer

B. J. Kelly, M. A. Novak, J. S. Meyer

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Billions of Deaths and Decades Later, Vested Scientists Rethink Dogma

How many billions of animals were poisoned in absolutely meaningless misleading horrifically painful toxicity tests since the time that honest scientists began evaluating animals as models of a chemical's toxicity in humans?

Too often (think always), when it comes to hurting animals, the scientific community is the most significant barrier to more humane practices. It all comes back to money, no doubt.


Report Calls for New Directions, Innovative Approaches in Testing Chemicals for Toxicity to Humans

Toxicity Testing in the Twenty-first Century: A Vision and a Strategy
Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology (BEST)
Institute for Laboratory Animal Research (ILAR)

The goal of toxicity testing is to develop data that can ensure appropriate protection of public health from the adverse effects of exposures to environmental agents. Current approaches to toxicity testing rely primarily on observing adverse biologic responses in homogeneous groups of animals exposed to high doses of a test agent. However, the relevance of such animal studies for the assessment of risks to heterogeneous human populations exposed at much lower concentrations has been questioned. Moreover, the studies are expensive and time-consuming and can use large numbers of animals, so only a small proportion of chemicals have been evaluated with these methods. Adequate coverage of different life stages, of end points of public concern, such as developmental neurotoxicity, and of mixtures of environmental agents is a continuing concern. Current tests also provide little information on modes and mechanisms of action, which are critical for understanding interspecies differences in toxicity, and little or no information for assessing variability in human susceptibility. Thus, the committee looked to recent scientific advances to provide a new approach to toxicity testing." (pg 17.)

Of Mice, Models, and Men: A critical evaluation of animal research
Andrew W. Rowan
State University of New York Press, Albany.

Most of our knowledge of the toxicity of a new chemical and the associated riskes of of human exposure is derived from animal tests. However, animal tests are very insensitive. Even in a trial using as many as 1,000 animals and a statistical confidence of 90%, a negative result could still conceal a real tumor incidence of 2 tumors per 1,000 animals. If this incidence were applied to the human population of the United States, it would mean 400,000 cancers. Reducing this upper limit of risk to 2 tumors per 1 million would require more than 3 million animals. (Lowrance, W.W. 1976. Of Acceptable Risk. Los Altos, CA.: William Kaufman.) The suggested test for carcinogenic potential uses only 800 animals, but the test's sensitivity is increased by using very large doses, which is also a controversial solution. (pg. 194)

Melmon, K.L. The clinical pharmacologist and scientifically unsound regulations for drug development. Clin Pharmacol. Ther. 20: 125-9.
In most cases, the animal tests cannot predict what will happen when the drug is given to man. Standards for toxicology are are often set by officials, such as federal regulators, who are responding to the ill-advised but obviously well-intentioned legislators or consumer groups who may or may not be aware of the futility of increasing the amount of testing required when some tests often have no bearing on how man will respond to the drug. (In Rowan, pg. 200.)

His Mental-ness

The Dalai Lama is exibiting symptoms of mental illness; one day he says one thing, the next, something different.

But maybe, like politicians everywhere, he just says what he thinks his audience wants to hear. (And the crowd went wild.) Maybe he knows that few people can themselves recall what was said from one day to the next.

Dalai Lama decries animal testing
The Associated Press

BEERWAH, Australia -- With creatures great and small around him, the Dalai Lama called Wednesday for a halt to lab experiments on animals and made the case for eating only fruits and vegetables -- all at the zoo of the late "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin. ...

"Hunting. Beef, sheep farms. Piggeries. Millions, billions die," the Dalai Lama said. "We can be so cruel to animals."

Although he sometimes sparked laughter with his remarks, his 30-minute address also had a more serious note: He criticized companies and organizations that he said "remain indifferent" to the rights of animals by experimenting on them....
Hello?!? Bad Karma Lama

See too: His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a Callous Prick

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Unalleviated Pain or Distress (Discussion)

The three responses to “Categorizing pain and distress in a Parkinson's model,” agree that monkeys with MPTP-induced parkinsonianism should be listed in Category E because they are experiencing and enduring unalleviated pain or distress.

Ellen M. Levee:
This protocol should place all animals in the same category since they all undergo induction of a model of Parkinson's disease by MPTP. The category of pain or distress should be E (unalleviated pain or distress). This model is certainly associated with a degree of unalleviated distress since the animals require additional medical and husbandry assistance. Although the animals are given the additional attention, there is distress intrinsic to the model that is not eliminated by providing the necessary care.
Sylvia J. Singletary:
Listing the animals in Category E, however, seems to be the most appropriate based on the USDA guidelines.
Colleen A. Cody and Jessica Hoar:
The first group of animals receiving MPTP will not have therapeutic intervention to relieve their symptoms. They will receive supportive daily care, but this is not sufficient to be considered Category C because the care will not relieve their pain or distress. These animals should instead be considered Category E.
The respondants agree that monkeys treated with MPTP should be listed in Category E.

It is likely that none of these four writers are currently working at an institution using this procedure. I suspect that if they were, their opinions would be very different as is suggested by Plous and Herzog's evaluation of the reliability of IACUC's. [The abstract is not available, but extended excerpts can be read here.]

A search of the CRISP database reveals that a number of vivisectors are injecting monkeys with MPTP. Institutions approving this technique include:


Marina Elena Emborg is a long-time user of MPTP-treated monkeys. She is affiliated with the University of Wisconsin National Primate Research Center, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, and Rush University. I mention this simply because a CRISP search for MPTP misses Emborg altogether.

Looking at APHIS Form 7023, we can get some idea of whether or not any of these institutions' IACUCs ever list MPTP-treated monkeys in Category E.

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SAN FRANCISCO (Very rarely. Only when the effect is "stronger than anticipated.")
EMORY UNIVERSITY (Never, based on one record inappropriately redacted.) (Emory's MPTP policy.)

In all fairness, the records at APHIS Form 7023 are incomplete and poorly organized. This data set used to be much better, but following intense lobbying by the vivisection industry, the records were all taken off line. After some legal challenges, APHIS grudgingly put them back, but this time in a disorganized, unsearchable, slip-shod way; it's almost as if they don't want the public to inspect them (surprise, surprise.) Many records are missing. But it is highly unlikely that all of the missing records are specific to MPTP-treated monkeys.

What all of this makes pretty clear is that the data collected and disseminated to Congress by USDA-APHIS is pretty poor. For instance, the most current data available, a summary of the number of animals (of covered species) used in 2005 reports that of the reported 1,177,566 animals used, 84,662 experienced unalleviated pain or distress.

But clearly, given the fact that essentially no monkeys treated with MPTP, a procedure uniformily recognized to cause unalleviated pain or distress according to the Lab Animal article, were reported in Category E, the USDA-APHIS data is profoundly flawed. And this is the data Congress relies on to make informed decisions regarding laws governing animal care in American laboratories.

In all liklihood, the number of animals enduring unalleviated pain or distress is orders of magnitude higher than the 84,662 reported by USDA.

Unalleviated Pain or Distress (Introduction)

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA, frequently referred to as the Act) is enforced by Animal Care (AC) [and here], a division of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), a unit of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

APHIS is required (and frequently meets its requirement) to inspect annually most U.S. laboratories using species of animals covered by the Act to ascertain whether they are operating in compliance with the Act. (The inspections are superficial; the frequently noted instances of non-compliance have little impact on a lab’s practices; but that’s another essay.) Invertebrates, fish, and purpose bred mice and rats (accounting for the overwhelming majority of animals used) and birds (except wild-captured birds) are exempt from the Act’s oversight and regulation. Federal facilities are exempt.

One of the forms sometimes appended to an APHIS inspector’s inspection report is APHIS Form 7023, a document prepared by the lab that lists the number of each species used over the past year. It categorizes the animals by the pain or distress they were likely to experience and whether or not they received drugs to alleviate their pain or distress. (Lab animal journals frequently publish articles about the difficulty in perceiving and judging pain and distress in animals (here, here, and here, for instance.) It is likely that few animals in laboratories receive sufficient drug dosages often enough over a long enough period of time to alleviate their pain or distress, but that too is another essay.)

Category C is reserved for animals unlikely to have experienced pain or distress. (Compelling documentation and research has demonstrated that standard laboratory housing and experiences are profoundly distressing (here, here, and here, for instance, but Category C is reserved for animals used in ways that in-and-of-themselves were claimed unlikely to cause pain or distress.)

Category D is reserved for animals likely to have experienced pain or distress and which were treated with pain relieving drugs (whether or not their pain or distress was alleviated.)

Category E is reserved for animals likely to have experienced unalleviated pain or distress.

It is much more common to see animals in Category E in reports from contract toxicology labs because animals are intentionally poisoned in such labs. When labs of this sort report that no animals were in Category E, it is a near certainty that they are intentionally lying.

Why would a lab lie about the pain and distress category? The simple fact is that even APHIS inspectors – calloused by frequent exposure to the suffering in the labs –look more carefully at a lab’s procedures and practices when they see animals reported in Category E, and labs are required to append justifications for their decision to withhold anesthesia and/or analgesia if they report animals in Category E. It’s more paper work associated with a can of worms.

The motivations for public universities not reporting animals in Category E are like those above, but are more likely to include other factors as well.

An illuminating article appeared in the June 2007 issue of the trade journal Lab Animal. The article was part of the regular column, “Protocol Review.” It was titled “Categorizing pain and distress in a Parkinson's model,” and begins with this scenario:
Parkinson's disease is a neurological disorder usually diagnosed in persons over 65 years of age. Some of the symptoms include limb tremors, slow movement, and loss of balance. Dr. Golda Sherman [a hypothetical vivisector] studied the disease using an adult rhesus monkey model. Her basic procedure was to give regular subcutaneous injections of the neurotoxin N-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) over a period of at least 4 months. Then, after a stabilization period, Sherman evaluated the efficacy of various drugs for treating the animals. Many of the clinical signs of Parkinson's in the animals mimic those seen in humans. More often than not the monkeys required assistance with feeding, and this help was routinely provided by the research group. Recently, in collaboration with colleagues at another university, Sherman developed a research interest in using adeno-associated virus-based vectors (AAV2) that encode a therapeutic human gene as a potential treatment for animals with Parkinson's.

Sherman's new IACUC protocol had three study groups: (1) MPTP only, (2) MPTP plus AAV2 without the gene of interest, and (3) MPTP plus AAV2 with the gene. The protocol called for the latter two groups to have the AAV2 injected intracranially using stereotaxic surgery. These AAV2-treated animals were to be placed in USDA pain/distress Category D (pain or distress alleviated by drugs) because of the surgery. The MPTP-only animals were to be placed in Category C (no pain or distress), the same category in which Great Eastern University had previously approved Sherman's studies. The protocol went through veterinary 'pre-review' without incident, and was then presented to the IACUC.

At the full committee meeting one of the newer members raised two questions. First, if an animal was going to develop signs of Parkinson's disease, why place it in Category C rather than Category E (unalleviated pain or distress)? Further, why not consider the animals undergoing surgery as part of multiple major operative procedures? Malcolm Michaels, the IACUC Chairman, explained that because Sherman provided the non-surgical animals with adequate medical and husbandry attention, Category C was appropriate for them. Moreover, because only one invasive surgical procedure was being done on the remaining animals, there was no need to consider this study as encompassing multiple major operative procedures.

Do you agree with the IACUC's determination that this is a Category C study for the non-surgical monkeys and Category D for the others? Should the IACUC consider Sherman's research as multiple major operative procedures on the same animal, or is it a single major operative procedure?
The scenario was responded to by four current vivisectors:

Ellen M. Levee, DVM, Director, Department of Comparative Medicine, and Assistant Professor, Departments of Physiology and Pathology, New York Medical College, Valhalla, NY. "Response to Protocol Review Scenario: Gimme an 'E'"

Sylvia J. Singletary, DVM, DACLAM, Director, Division of Comparative Medicine, Institutional Veterinarian, and Assistant Professor, Physiological Sciences, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, VA. "Response to Protocol Review Scenario: Depends on context"

Colleen A. Cody, BS, Associate Director, Animal Welfare Compliance, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Inc., Cambridge, MA.

Jessica Hoar, LATG, CMAR, IACUC Manager II, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Cambridge, MA.

Cody and Hoar collaborated on their response, "Response to Protocol Review Scenario: Category E (with caveats)"

Friday, June 8, 2007

Are UW Vivisectors Anti-Knowledge?

I've written about the University of Wisconsin, Madison's (apparently bumbled) efforts to site the Department of Homeland Security's hideously cruel and insanely dangerous lab, NBAF, in the nearby Town of Dunn a couple of times.

This post is about a conversation that occurred on a local web forum regarding the Dane County Board of Supervisors' vote against the UW's plans. You can read the entire thread here.

Of interest are the comments made by a poster going by the handle bleurose and the single comment by uwes98.

In an earlier thread, bleurose made known that she is a veterinarian involved in research. Because she knows Dr. Eric Sandgren, the vet who chairs two of the university IACUCs and is the acting director of the UW Research Animal Resources Center, I suspect bleurose is either a lab animal vet at the university or else, like Sandgren, a vet who is primarily a vivisector.

What I found interesting was their anti-intellectual anti-knowledge stance on the book Lab 257, an investigative work looking at the history of Plum Island, the lab that NBAF is allegedly intended to replace.

The Town of Dunn, nearly all its few residents apparently, read the book and voiced their concerns about the issues it raised during a town meeting with UW representatives about the proposed lab. At that time, none of the UW representatives had heard of the book, or at least said they hadn't when asked about it at the town meeting.

During subsequent meetings, they continued to play dumb whenever asked about it.

In the forum, bleurose said:
"Lab 257" is supposed to be some sort of "bible" for planning/siting/building a new lab and everything else that has been found out or written about such a topic should be dismissed? WHOO-HOO - that sure makes me feel a lot safer! However, not at all surprised that this has come up, a pseudo-treatise like this always does. Only surprise is that it didn't hit earlier.
But it came up months earlier during the first town meeting, and kept coming up.

In the forum, bleurose said:
I believe they have better things to do than read one book about one lab that had safety issues. What they DID take the time to do was ask DIRECTLY WHAT PEOPLE"S CONCERNS WERE. And yet, some are screeching about how they didn't take time & aren't concerned.
Except, the people said they were concerned about issues raised in the book, and no one from the UW took the time to read it and debunk it, let alone discuss it with the citizens.

And then, uwes98 chimes in with this gem:
More power to the pols who haven't read Lab 257. My ex works at Plum Island, and that book is just as much a work of fiction as the FBI's offer to let Hannibal Lecter visit there.
More power to the pols who remain uninformed?

No matter the issue, if someone recommends a book about a subject, why would someone else refuse to read it and discuss it? If it's full of crap, explain why.

The Town of Dunn read the book and was concerned about it; the UW rep's refusal -- continual refusal -- to read it and discuss the town's concerns speaks volumes about the utter disdain the university has for the public. Only the university's interests seem to matter at all.

When those from a purported educational institution refuse to educate themselves, you know something has gone wrong. A long time ago, the university changed course; education is no longer its major goal. Now it's grants and patents. It's all about money.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

NABR Spokesperson Misleads Congressional Committee

May 8, 2007

Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee,

Thank you for allowing me to testify today and for conducting this hearing on animal welfare. I am Dr. Steven L. Leary, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Veterinary Affairs at Washington University. I am testifying today on behalf of the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR). NABR is the only national, nonprofit organization dedicated solely to advocating sound public policy that recognizes the vital role of humane animal use in biomedical research, higher education and product safety testing.

Founded in 1979, NABR provides the unified voice for the scientific community on legislative and regulatory matters affecting laboratory animal research. NABR’s membership is comprised of more than 300 public and private universities, medical and veterinary schools, teaching hospitals, voluntary health agencies, professional societies, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, and other animal research-related firms.
NABR, like essentially every special interest group focussed on maintaining the flow of public funds into private coffers, makes false claims intended to sway uninformed lawmakers. They commonly present false or erroneous claims under the guise of historical fact or current regulatory reality.

Even Dr. Leary's claim regarding the uniquness of NABR spins the facts. (See for instance Americans for Medical Progress.)

Let's look at his proclaimed facts in no particular order:
The IACUC, which is taken very seriously by each research institution, is an internal committee that is charged with reviewing, approving, and monitoring research protocols. An IACUC is comprised of a minimum of five members ...
In fact, the Animal Welfare Act is quite clear:
Definition - Committee: means the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) established under section 13(b) of the Act. It shall consist of at least three members...
Given that the IACUC is the keystone of the Act, the fact that Dr. Leary is wrong about this very basic fact should make us wonder whether he has gotten other basic things wrong.

Dr. Leary:
IACUCs require a major commitment from those who serve, but they have proved to be very effective in acting as a safeguard to insure that the research proposed is meritorious...
In fact, the only serious evaluation of the IACUC system has found exactly the opposite. The current definitive evaluation of the IACUC system is Plous S, Herzog H. Animal research. Reliability of protocol reviews for animal research. Science. 2001 Jul 27;293(5530):608-9, excerpted here:
Over the past 20 years, the reliability of scientific peer-review judgments has been a topic of frequent debate and scrutiny. However, one area of peer review that has not received much empirical investigation is the system that protects animal subjects from research risks. At most research institutions, studies involving animal subjects must be approved by an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)....

...[W]e conducted a study of randomly selected IACUCs from U.S. universities and colleges. Seventy committees were drawn from a master list of 916 IACUCs maintained by the U.S. Office for Protection from Research Risks. Of these 70, 50 agreed to participate in the study. Thirty-four IACUCs came from research or doctoral universities, seven came from master's colleges or universities, six came from specialized institutions (e.g., medical colleges), and three came from liberal arts colleges. In all, 494 of 566 voting members (151 females and 343 males), or 87% of those approached, took part in the study.

Each IACUC was asked to submit its three most recently reviewed protocols involving animal behavior, including the committee's decision on whether to approve the research in question. All information identifying the investigator or institution was then removed from the protocols, and each protocol was randomly assigned to be reviewed a second time by another participating IACUC. Voting members of the second committee were sent packets containing three masked protocols with a request to review the protocols and to send us a completed evaluation anonymously in a prepaid envelope.

Once we received reviews from individual committee members, the IACUCs were asked to meet as a group and render a final evaluation for each of the three protocols. Committees were asked to follow their standard operating procedures and to discuss the protocols as they would any other research proposal.

Protocol evaluations from the originating committee and from the second committee were not significantly related to one another…. This absence of a relation was found not only across the full set of 150 protocols, but for relatively invasive research involving procedures such as electric shock, food or water deprivation, surgery, and drug or alcohol research...; for protocols involving euthanasia...; and for protocols in which the reviewing IACUC expected animals to experience a significant amount of pain.... Thus, regardless of whether the research involved terminal or painful procedures, IACUC protocol reviews did not exceed chance levels of intercommittee agreement....

Of the 118 instances in which the two committees differed in their protocol reviews (79% of all reviews), the second committee was more negative than the first 101 times. Indeed, the second committee rarely rated all dimensions of a protocol favorably.... For example, only 43% of protocols were seen as having a fairly or completely convincing justification for the type and number of animals used (a requirement of the Animal Welfare Act), and only 45% were rated as having good or excellent research designs and procedures. All told, 61% of protocols were judged as either "not very understandable" or "not understandable at all," as having "poor" research designs and procedures, or as justifying the type and number of animals in a way that was deemed "not very convincing" or "not convincing at all." ...
Dr. Leary:
Every research facility in the country receives at least one unannounced USDA inspection annually.
That's true, but his implied message, that these inspections are meaningful, is contrary to the USDA's own Inspector General's findings:
Audit Report
APHIS Animal Care Program
Inspection and Enforcement Activities
Report No. 33002-3-SF
September 2005
In monitoring research facilities, some VMOs did not verify the number of animals used in medical research, adequately sample the facilities’ protocols, or review other available records. This occurred because the inspection manual is too general, and the VMOs relied on the facilities to provide accurate and pertinent records. As a result, APHIS is misinformed on the number of regulated animals used in research, and has less assurance that protocols are properly completed, approved, and adhered to for the purpose of ensuring the health and safety of the animals.(pg 13)
Whether intentionally or out of ignorance, NABR's offical spokesperson, Dr. Steven L. Leary, misled the House Committee on easily verifiable facts such as the regulatory requirements for the makeup of Instituational Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUCs) and the effectiveness of both the IACUC system and the USDA animal research laboratory inspection system.

Maybe it's unfair of me to expect an Assistant Vice Chancellor for Veterinary Affairs at a major research university who is acting as an NABR spokesperson to be reasonably informed. But given the clear fact that he isn't, it is not surprising that his speculations are also based on something other than evidence.

Dr. Leary:
Animal research has played a vital role in virtually every major medical advance of the last century...
(Sing Hallelujah!)

What evidence would be sufficient to debunk such a claim? When Leary says, "virtually" does he mean some, most, a few? How many examples contradicting his claim would be sufficient? I won't launch into a rebuttal of each of his silly claims here; I urge readers to visit the Americans For Medical Advancement website and peruse some of the very many articles there written by scientists and medical doctors who question the absurdity of claims like Leary's.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Cogitating monkeys can calculate statistics

Arguments defending animal research inevitably appeal to the image of a sick child who can't be saved unless countless animals are sacrificed to $cience. Only a cad wouldn't want to save a poor dying child. Deborah Blum used just this appeal to baseless angst when she repeatedly asked me during a debate she moderated whether pediatric drugs should be tested on babies rather than animals. (I said they are tested on babies because the animal tests are meaningless and misleading.)

In any case, much painful research with animals makes no claim about saving sick dying babies or anyone else; much of it is bluesky nonsense driven solely by curiosity.

Consider the research adressed in the article Cogitating monkeys can calculate statistics.

Tianming Yang and Michael Shadlen at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the University of Washington in Seattle, US, tested the reasoning of two rhesus macaques ...

After several weeks of training on thousands of trials per day - clearly, the monkeys are no Einsteins - both macaques learned to match their choices closely to the actual probabilities revealed by the shapes they saw, choosing the correct target more than 75% of the time.

This is the first time monkeys have been shown to make such subtle probabilistic inferences.

"When we started this, we thought it was a high-risk project," says Shadlen. "When we had monkeys doing it, I was pretty shocked."...

The researchers also used electrodes in the brain to record the activity of 64 neurons in the lateral intraparietal area - a region on the side of the brain that is involved in attention and visual processing....

"We're exposing the basic elements, the fundamental biology of higher cognition," says Shadlen. Further work should allow the researchers to begin to understand the decision-making process in more detail.
Michael N. Shadlen (here, here, and here) has a long history of sticking electrodes in monkeys' brains. Tianming Yang is one of Shadlen's assistants (the cycle of abuse continues.)

The simple statement, "The researchers also used electrodes in the brain to record the activity of 64 neurons in the lateral intraparietal area..." is an antiseptic way of saying that Shadlen cut away part of the scalp, exposed the skull, drilled a hole, screwed and glued a box to the skull, and then pushed wires down into the monkeys' brains.

It also fails to mention the fact that monkeys having had this done to them must have continual medical care to cut away the developing scar tissue and be treated for recurring infections. Brain abcesses are not uncommon.

And, the monkeys, once surgically mutilated, are then restrained for hours on end and must work (follow lights on a screen) for (very commonly) an occasional drop of liquid. The monkeys are kept chronically thirsty and sometimes hungry.

And this undeniable suffering has absolutely nothing to do with curing sick children. It's just mental masturbation, knowledge for knowledge sake.

I wonder if Shadlen can cogitate the liklihood of him and his evil cronies being view as monsters by future generations. I wonder if he can mentally calculate the odds of being grouped with Dario Ringach?

Sunday, June 3, 2007

The Triple Whammy

One, two, three, you're outta here!

Only industry spin-doctors and their dupes make the consistent claim that animals in biomedical research are well cared for, that the research is carefully monitored, and that the suffering in the labs is not intense. Strike one.

Only the ignorant and the vested interests make the consistent claim that animal models of human disease and drug response are valid and generate meaningful helpful data regarding human health and care. Strike two.

The third strike is dishonesty. Over at Adventures in Science and Ethics on ScienceBlogs, Janet D. Stemwedel, who teaches ethics to aspiring scientists apparently, has made the observation that:
All scientists appreciate the need for honesty in reporting scientific findings and the wrongness of fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism.

Despite (1), a certain (alarming?) number of scientists nevertheless engage in fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism with some regularity.

A certain (even larger?) number of scientists are aware of the scientists who engage in fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism.

The known bad actors seem to get rewarded, rather than smacked down, for committing fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism.
ScienceBlogs is presumably heavily visited by scientists. Telling, is the fact that no one has challenged her claims. Apparently, visitors to her site agree that a "certain (alarming?) number of scientists nevertheless engage in fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism with some regularity." Strike three.

So, animal research causes much suffering, is meaningless, and a "certain (alarming?) number of scientists" are liars, which makes the misery they inflict all the more egregious.

It's no wonder that the few ethicists who address animal research can't come to grips with the fact that the oversight system is broken, the paradigm is suspect, or that animals have minds and feelings not qualitatively different from our own. If they can't even figure out how to address the mundane matters of fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism, how in the world could they hope to grapple with these profound and society-shaking issues?

My suggestion was to make the labs' activities transparent to the public. A little sunshine would go a long way toward cleaning up this godawful mess.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Did New TB Case Come From CDC?

How many cases of XDR TB have been reported in the United States?

In the United States, 49 cases of XDR TB have been reported between 1993 and 2006.
The newest case is Andrew Speaker, whose story has generated intense news coverage. The main theme has been that he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, advised not to travel, did so any way, and exposed many airline passengers to the potentially deadly disease.

XDR TB stands for extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis. This drug-resistance makes it a potentially serious pandemic and lethal agent, especially if it were to mutate (or be bioengineered) into a highly virulent strain.

One part of the story that has not been adequately pursued is the oddly coincidental fact that Speaker's fiance's father is Dr. Robert C. Cooksey, an XDR TB researcher at CDC:
First and foremost, I am concerned about the health and well being of my son-in-law and family, as well as the passengers on the affected flights.

I am the father-in-law of Andrew Speaker, who was recently publicly identified as a person infected with extensively drug resistant tuberculosis. I do work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I have worked at the CDC for 32 years. I´m a research microbiologist in CDC´s Division of Tuberculosis (TB) Elimination, and my work does involve working with a wide range of organisms, including TB. As a research microbiologist, my laboratory work involves identifying the characteristics and features of bacteria.

As part of my job, I am regularly tested for TB. I do not have TB, nor have I ever had TB. My son-in-law´s TB did not originate from myself or the CDC´s labs, which operate under the highest levels of biosecurity.

I wasn´t involved in any decisions my son-in-law made regarding his travel, nor did I ever act as a CDC official or in an official CDC capacity with respect to any of the events of the past weeks.

As a parent, frequent traveler, and biologist, I well appreciate the potential harm that can be caused by diseases like TB. I would never knowingly put my daughter, friends or anyone else at risk from such a disease....
There are many problems associated with Dr. Cooksey's statement.

The first, and one that alerts us to question the rest of his claims, is the idea that Speaker would not have immediately conferred with his soon-to-be father-in-law TB expert upon learning that he had a baseball-sized TB lesion in one of his lungs.

Something smells.

Cooksey says, "I wasn´t involved in any decisions my son-in-law made regarding his travel." He let his daughter go off with a TB patient, jet around the world, and yet says, "First and foremost, I am concerned about the health and well being of my son-in-law and family, as well as the passengers on the affected flights."

Something smells very rotten here.

Second, the coincidence of Speaker's rare disease and his father-in-law's research strains credulity. Forty-nine cases in the US in 13 years, and one just happens to be the fiance of the daughter of scientist studying this rare disease.

Third, the fact that Cooksey has never tested positive for TB is not necessarily proof that he wasn't the carrier. TB is member of the genus Mycobacteria, known for its unusually tough cell wall. Mycobacteria can take years to culture, and Mycobacteria tuberculosis, the causative agent of TB, can take four weeks to culture, and remains viable for hours in its airborne state.

Even if TB spores were inhaled by Dr. Cooksey, he might not have become infected. Exposure is not a guarantee of infection. Given the toughness of the organism it isn't impossible that he might have carried the spores in his lungs and out of the lab.

Fourth, Cooksey's claim that CDC's labs operate "under the highest levels of biosecurity" is not reassuring. CDC has made erroneous claims in the past such as the claim that the animals in its labs are well cared for. Other labs operating "under the highest levels of biosecurity," like Plum Island, have been somewhat less than secure and may have been the source of significant public health risks.

Something doesn't add up.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Mouse Models

No one knows with much certainty just how many mice are consumed annually in American labs. Estimates of 20 to 30 million are common. But creating today's exotic strains -- with more or less precisely defined genetics -- can entail killing twenty or more mice for each one that meets a scientist's demands. These by-products of the industry do not rate even a tally mark.

The use of mice and every other "model" species is based on the notion that mice and humans are essentially the same when it comes to basic biology. The claim is that if we can learn how a drug is metabolized in the liver of a mouse, for instance, we can assume that it will be somewhat similarly metabolized in a human.

Strong theoretical arguments explain why these assumptions turn out to be false more often than not (nearly always in fact), but the animal research community chooses to ignore the history of failure and continues to hurt and consume these little beasts in ever-growing numbers.

In the case of mouse livers and human livers, a recent study by researchers at MIT explains why mice fail so uniformily as good predictive models. An MIT press release explains:
The researchers and their colleagues had previously worked out many aspects of gene regulation in the human liver, which is one reason the researchers chose to study the [mouse] liver. In the current study they compared 4,000 human genes with nearly identical counterparts, known as homologous genes, from mouse liver cells.

Given the similarity between the two species' DNA sequences, the researchers expected that transcription factors would bind to the same sites in most pairs of homologous genes. To their surprise, they found that most of the binding sites--between 41 percent and 89 percent, depending on the transcription factor--were in different locations in humans and mice.

"The number of genes with the identical regulation in both species was very, very small," [Ernest] Fraenkel said.

Before they began, the researchers expected to see some differences in gene regulation between mice and humans, because the human liver has evolved to process cooked food, said Fraenkel. However, the magnitude of change was much higher than they anticipated.
Not surprisingly, they now say that it is the absence of similarity that makes mice valuable tools.