Sunday, June 3, 2012

Bennett, Kalin, Maternal Deprivation, and Me

I received a copy of the minutes from a closed session of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School Animal Care and Use Committee (ACUC) almost two months ago. You can view them here. This passage is included:
Dr. Lindstrom asked if there has been any discussion about the type of extreme experiments of this study. Dr. Krugner-Higby [A lab animal veterinarian] said yes, and said that she feels the creation of nursery-raised infant non-human primates (NHP) is severe because of what it can do to young animals. Dr. Capuano [Primate Center attending vet] said this type of research continues to be carried out at other NHP research centers, but acknowledged that this type of research has not occurred at UW-Madison since the 1980s. Dr. Lindstrom asked if this is an established animal model for this work, and asked if separation from the mothers could be half as long as is proposed. Dr. Krugner-Higby said the PI will say that his lab has gone as far as they can within "normal" anxiety range and the research needs to be carried out past that range. Dr. Capuano said that the PI is trying to compare mother-reared animals to nursery-reared animals at a specific developmental stage. He said that he is unsure if the ACUC has the right to tell a PI not to do their research because the research may cause harm. The ACUC frequently approves protocols that will have adverse effects on animals. Dr. Krugner-Higby said the difference is in other studies of pathogenesis (such as SIV) specific therapeutic or preventative endpoints can be identified and reached, but in these studies endpoints are less clear, noting the behavioral damage to the animals from this type of study is all ready well-known. Dr. Krugner-Higby said that she has read both of the grants listed on this protocol and neither of the grants describe the creation of nursery-reared infants in the specific aims nor in the Vertebrate Animal Sections. She said PI knows that he will have to inform his program officers of this explicit proposal. Dr. Capuano said he believes that a new grant has been submitted to cover that aspect of work. Extensive discussion ensued. It was noted that the PI is trying to learn what is different about the brains of young anxious NHPs in order to eventually develop therapies to treat anxious children and adults. Dr. Capuano said the PI over the past year has tested every NHP infant for the anxious phenotype to identify candidate animals for his work, and again stated he is not sure if the ACUC should question NIH-approved scientific research. Dr. Krugner-Higby noted the request for the creation of nursery-reared infants has not in fact been approved. Dr. Smith noted that this study is basic science, but the hypotheses and goals are not clearly noted in the protocol. He added that the proposed deprivation is not necessarily troubling, but it is the fact that the PI has not explained it well in this protocol in terms he can understand. Dr. Lindstrom agreed. Ms. Boehm asked if these NHPs infants are purpose-bred, do the fathers of the infants need to be accounted for? Dr. Capuano will check with Dr. Welter.
Shortly afterward, I wrote to the chair of the UW Letters and Science ACUC:
Hello [Chair],

I recently reviewed ACUC minutes of a meeting during which concern was raised regarding a study which will utilize maternal deprivation in rhesus monkeys.

Just to gain some clarity, has Allyson Bennett's project been approved by the L&S ACUC?

Is her's the only pending or currently active project overseen by your committee currently utilizing maternal deprivation in monkeys?

Thanks in advance.


Hi Rick. With apologies, I'm not comfortable giving out information about protocols as I don't know what's available to the public and what's not. If you would be willing to share with me the minutes to which you are referring, those might provide a basis for discussion since those are already publicly available.



This is the abstract on the NIH RePORTER website:

I'm not asking about the minutes; I'm asking whether this study has been approved and is underway.


Hi Rick. As I said, I'm not comfortable being the source of information about protocols. There are, as you know, standard procedures for processing such requests at RARC.



A Möbius strip is a surface in three-dimensional space with only one side and one edge. The apparent resumption of maternal deprivation at the university is so outrageous, such a backward moral leap, that it seems to have teleported me onto the surface of a sort of mental Möbius pretzel. It seems that no matter how much I looked at the various bits of evidence about this, no matter which turn I took, which route I followed, I kept coming back to the same mistaken conclusions.

I had asked the L&S ACUC Chair about Bennett’s project because I recalled seeing the abstract of her funded study on NIH Reporter; it was the only listed study that involved maternally depriving baby monkeys.

I linked to the abstract in the email thread above. For reasons I can’t explain other than being trapped on that mental Möbius pretzel, no matter how many times I read this passage: “The studies will use a longitudinal research approach to identify the consequences of different early rearing experiences (nursery- versus mother-reared) on specific aspects of behavior and brain in middle- age (14-19 years; approximate range within 40-60 human years) in an existing population of adult rhesus monkeys;” I never could see anything but baby monkeys being taken from their mothers; somehow, I think, the shock of the conversation from the Grad School ACUC coupled with the fact that the only funded project involving maternal deprivation of monkeys at the university was Bennett’s, led me to some weird conceptual alloy or amalgam made up of both. I even discounted, at first, the use of male pronoun in the minutes.

My Möbius pretzel thinking about all of this was additionally confounded by the approach of Mothers Day and my desire to use this seemingly ideal opportunity to call attention to the resumption of maternal deprivation at the university.

Eric Sandgren called me a liar when I wrote that Bennett refused to debate me, but people who actually know me, know that I don’t lie. I wrote it because I believed it. I now understand at least this bit of confusion. A friend and colleague of mine is a member of the Ethics Forum committee. She and I did talk about asking Bennett to debate me, but Bennett's flat refusal to even talk in public about what she does made pursuing that challenge a non-starter.

[A brief side trip: I have to chuckle whenever a vivisector calls me a liar, which (maybe surprisingly) isn’t so very often. This is particularly funny when it is a senior staff person at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. That institution has been caught in really big lies like their repeatedly broken written promises to the County that the monkeys housed at the zoo wouldn’t be used in harmful experiments. And denials by senior staff that that even happened. They have engaged in blatant cover-ups and the destruction of information they feared would be embarrassing if made public. They have been caught breaking the state’s anti-cruelty laws and repeatedly violating Animal Welfare Act regulations. These lying lawbreakers are engaged in cruelty on a scale hard to fully understand, and they call me a liar and get all huffy if I make a mistake about some detail of their hidden evil work.]

I’m going to try to state the facts (as I understand them) and correct the unexplainable errors I have made regarding all of this over the past weeks:

1. Allyson Joy Bennett isn’t depriving baby monkeys of maternal care. I wrongly stated that she was.

She is using monkeys who were born and then maternally deprived at the NIH Animal Center in Poolesville (here's their propaganda page)– probably used and written about by Harlow’s protege Stephen Suomi, and then shipped to her previous institution, Wake Forest.

Her grant abstract gives few clear details about what she is and will be doing to these monkeys. A request for her UW-Madison approved protocol has not yet resulted in any information. In recently published papers using other monkeys born at Poolesville, raised without their mothers, used in unknown ways, and then shipped to Wake Forest, she continued to add to the insults and trauma they had already suffered. Here’s an example:
A nonhuman primate model of early life stress, social impoverishment through nursery-rearing rather than mother-rearing, has been shown to produce increased impulsive and anxiety-like behaviors, cognitive and motor deficits, and increased alcohol consumption. ....

Materials and methods
Male rhesus monkeys were born at the Laboratory of Comparative Ethology at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and transferred to Wake Forest University School of Medicine at roughly three years of age. The animals were initially socially-housed and then moved to individual housing (76 × 60 × 70 cm3) approximately 1.5 years prior to this study to participate in a long-term voluntary ethanol drinking study. The home cage for each animal was equipped with an operant panel that supplied food, water, and ethanol for each animal. Monkeys were trained to operate the drinking panel to self-administer water or ethanol (4% w/v in water, see Grant et al., 2008 for more details). During the final 12 months of the experiment, animals were allowed free access to water and ethanol for 22 h/day. Monkeys were fed a diet of Primate Food pellets (Research Diets Inc., New Brunswick, N.J.) and fresh fruit. Water was available ad libitum. Experiments were performed when the monkeys were six years of age. This study was conducted in accordance with the Guidelines of the Committee on the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (NRC, 1996) and approved by the Wake Forest University Animal Care and Use Committee. Upon completion of the drinking study, necropsies were performed and samples collected for the appropriate assays.

From: Effects of early life stress on drinking and serotonin system activity in rhesus macaques: 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid in cerebrospinal fluid predicts brain tissue levels. Kimberly N. Hugginsa, Tiffany A. Mathewsb, Jason L. Lockea, Kendall T. Szeligaa, David P. Friedmana, Allyson J. Bennetta, Sara R. Jones, Alcohol. 2012.
2. I don’t now believe an offer or challenge to debate Bennett was ever conveyed. She was asked to give a talk at one of the so-called Ethics Forums, but declined to participate; an odd choice for a vivisector who is an active member of the small pro-vivisection group that calls itself “Speaking of Research.”

I think my lapse into fantasy on this point is because of my unfortunate conceptual hybridization of Bennett and the PI whose project caused such concern at the Grad School ACUC.

3. I think the unnamed PI in the Grad School minutes is Ned Kalin. It seems that it is him who is intend on reviving the particularly cruel methods pioneered by Harlow. Kalin, apparently, has been asked to debate me.

During the course of all this, I received a message of concern from a whistle-blower at the university urging me to file a records request for studies at the university using maternal deprivation.

I submitted this request:
May 10, 2012

Richard Lane
Associate Director
Research Animal Resources Center
396 Enzyme Institute
1710 University Ave.
Madison, WI 73726-4087

This is a public records request for a copy of all pending or approved protocols for projects at the University of Wisconsin, Madison involving animals and utilizing any one or more of the following methods:

maternal deprivation
social deprivation
environmental deprivation
surrogate peer-rearing

I am prepared to pay a reasonable search and duplication fee for the fulfillment of this request up to the amount of $100.00, but kindly ask that such fees be waived as this release will benefit the general public. If the aforementioned request for a waiver or reduction of fees is denied and fees are expected to exceed $100.00, please notify me to this effect before this request is processed.

Your prompt attention to this matter will be appreciated.
Two weeks later I got a phone message at home from the Research Animal Resources Center Director, Eric Sandgren (who thinks I’m a liar.) I replied to him in an email on May 24:

Hello Eric,

You suggested I call and speak to you about a recent records request. I prefer to maintain a written record of any communications with the university regarding this request, and so will try to clarify my request here.

Thank you for your phone message of May 23 asking for clarification of my May 10, 2012 request for a copy of all pending or approved protocols for projects at the University of Wisconsin, Madison involving animals and utilizing any one or more of the following methods:

maternal deprivation
social deprivation
environmental deprivation
surrogate peer-rearing

Additionally, I would like to amend my request to also include protocols using the method: early differential rearing, and any other method that involves the removal of an animal from his or her mother prior to the species-typical weaning age and is utilized as a means of inducing a change in behavior or physiology, or is used experimentally to determine whether any such removal for any amount of time causes a change or changes in behavior or physiology.

I have requested a copy of Allyson Joy Bennett's approved protocol in a separate request; there is no need to include that protocol in any response to the request described here.

The terms of art listed above are used in published scientific reports, grant applications, and published abstracts that refer to somewhat similar procedures. Typically, young animals are intentionally removed from their mothers, usually within 24 hours of birth, and are then raised either alone (isolation-rearing, surrogate-rearing, surrogate peer-rearing) or with an age-matched animal of the same species (peer-rearing).

Sometimes, the animals are maintained in conditions intended to isolate them from social or sensory experiences (social deprivation, environmental deprivation).

Nursery-rearing is a term of art used in some projects using the methods mentioned in the paragraphs above. Nursery-rearing can include animals being raised alone or with an age-matched animal of the same species.

To help you better understand my request, here are couple quotes that use one or more of the terms. These are from abstracts of currently funded research at the university:

"The present studies will determine if stimulation of Acb AMY1 receptors improves baseline or deficient PPI (induced by psychotomimetic drugs such as amphetamine or phencyclidine), and/or if agonists for this receptor augment the efficacy of clinically prescribed antipsychotic medications in the PPI paradigm. Finally, we will explore whether the family of amylin-related genes is regulated by isolation rearing, a developmental manipulation in rats that is known to produce schizophrenia-like PPI deficits in adulthood." 1R21MH093824-01 BAKSHI, VAISHALI P. AMY-1 RECEPTORS: NOVEL TARGETS FOR ANTIPSYCHOTIC DEVELOPMENT.

"The specific aims of this research are: 1) To determine the long-term effects of early differential rearing on specific aspects of behavior in rhesus macaques; 2) To determine the long-term effects of early differential rearing on both global and specific aspects of brain morphology and cerebral composition using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); 3) To assess the relationship between performance on cognitive, learning and memory tests and structural aspects of the brain in these nursery- and mother-reared monkeys;" 7R01MH084980-02 BENNETT, ALLYSON J. LONG-TERM COGNITIVE AND NEUROANATOMICAL CONSEQUENCES OF CHILDHOOD STRESS.

A proposed series of experiments involving some form of maternal deprivation were recently discussed at both the Graduate School and the College of Letters and Science ACUCs, and at a joint meeting of both committees. I believe the Principal Investigator on that project is Ned Kalin, but I am uncertain who the PI is at this point in time.

Because I do not know the term of art being used in that proposed research, I have included in my request many of the various terms of art for variations on maternal deprivation that are found in published reports, abstracts, and grant proposals.

From various published reports:

"A nonhuman primate model of early life stress, social impoverishment through nursery-rearing rather than mother-rearing, has been shown to produce increased impulsive and anxiety-like behaviors, cognitive and motor deficits, and increased alcohol consumption." Huggins KN, et al. Alcohol. 2012.

"For the first 8 months of life, infants were either with their mothers and peers (MPR, n=21) or reared in a nursery using either peer-rearing (PR, n=20) or surrogate-peer-rearing (SPR, n=20)." Dettmer AM, et al. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2012.

"This paper exploits a unique ongoing experiment to analyze the effects of early rearing conditions on physical and mental health in a sample of rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). We analyze the health records of 231 monkeys that were randomly allocated at birth across three rearing conditions: mother rearing, peer rearing, and surrogate peer rearing. We show that the lack of a secure attachment relationship in the early years engendered by adverse rearing conditions has detrimental long-term effects on health that are not compensated for by a normal social environment later in life." Conti G, et al Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012.

"Males and females rhesus macaques reared either with their mothers (MR), in peer-only groups (PR), or in a "surrogate/peer-reared" (SPR) condition with limited peer interactions, were used as experimental subjects." Cirulli F, et al. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2011.

I hope these examples and my comments above will enable you to identify the pending or approved protocols for projects at the University of Wisconsin, Madison involving animals and utilizing any one or more of the many varieties of maternal deprivation. It is copies of these pending or approved protocols for projects at the University of Wisconsin, Madison which I am requesting.

Nothing here should be interpreted to mean that I am requesting copies of only the Bakshi protocol and the proposal discussed by the two ACUS mentioned above. I am requesting copies of any and all protocols using any of the methods explained here, but not in this request the Allyson Joy Bennett protocol.

Thank you for the opportunity to clarify my request.


Rick Bogle
To which Sandgren replied on the same day:
Thanks, Rick. I'm blind-copying this to the person here who is handling the request, and she and I will talk to see if this gives us what we need to move forward.

I'm hopeful that we will have a way to get this to you--I do not think it will be too difficult. The reason I called was that we don't have an easy way of searching our various databases to find those terms, and I didn't want to be in a position where we missed things that you were especially interested in because of that. Also, did you want this restricted to non-human primates? It will be far more difficult to identify records that might be responsive if you want any species.

I may email you again if I feel I need to run by you my interpretation or your request.
I replied:
Hello Eric,

Thanks. No, I am not limiting my request with regard to the species of the animals being used.
And Sandgren answered:
I'll pass that on.
And then, in a letter dated the following day, May 25 and post-marked May 25 as well, I received this from this from the Research Animal Resources Center:

Dear Mr. Bogle:

I am writing in response to your request for "all pending or approved protocols for projects at the University of Wisconsin, Madison involving animals and utilizing any one or more of [eight specific methods]."

We are unable to process your request as written as it is not sufficiently specific as to subject matter or length of time, and imposes an unreasonable burden on the University. (See Wis. Stats. 19.35(l)(h); State v, Gehl, 306 Wis.2d 247 (2007)). Please note that we have no reasonably efficient way to locate protocols according to concepts such as the methods you specified as we do not organize protocols on the basis of the types of methods you listed, and running a database query would only allow us to identify the use of your terms in titles of protocols. Furthermore, whether particular experimental designs constitute the methods you specified is a matter subject to interpretation. The task of locating records responsive to your request would require excessive amounts of time and resources, as each animal protocol would need to be manually reviewed, possibly with veterinary input to determine whether any component of any research protocol was considered to utilize one of the cited methods. Because we receive a high volume of records requests, each of which must be responded to in a timely manner, we must ask that you narrow your request to encompass a limited period of time, and to refer to a readily identifiable set of records that are capable of being located through reasonable efforts. To the extent that this amounts to a denial of your request, please note that it is subject to review by mandamus under Wis. Stat. § 19.37(1), or upon application to the Attorney General or District Attorney.

[Signed] Richard R. Lane,
Associate Director
There wasn’t, apparently, any communication about this between Lane and his superior. Maybe Lane was cut out of the loop when Sandgren stepped in. It’s hard to say. It's also hard to guess which of these communications is the definitive university response. Maybe its all just rope-a-dope.

I should also tell you that the Alliance for Animals was contacted by Allyson Joy Bennett in an email. She said that our recent newsletter had misrepresented her methods (and it unfortunately did for the reasons spelled out above), she said that she isn’t maternally depriving monkeys (which I’ve tried to clarify above), isn’t frightening them with a snake (I think that’s Kalin, since he has done this for years), and is not planning on killing the group of monkeys she is now using. She demanded that we correct our errors (I directed her to the webpage which clarifies the use of the snake) and told her that we would correct our error concerning the snake in our next newsletter, we’ll also clarify the fact that she’s using monkeys previously abused but not now creating abused monkeys. I told her we would hold off on any other corrections pending an opportunity to review her approved protocol. I asked her to send us a copy since getting records from the university is so often very difficult and time consuming.

In conclusion, no one I know who has been involved in this work for very long hasn’t made an occasional mistake, particularly those who try to understand what is being done to the animals in the labs. This is inevitable when dealing with people who behave as if they know that we are asking for information that will embarrass them or cause them to run afoul of regulators and the legal system.

In this case though, my errors involved something other than the typical institutional secrecy was at play. And, as I said above, I’m still trying to figure it all out. In any case, Bennett has been involved in a series of projects that have further abused monkeys whose entire lives have been manipulated in ways intended to harm them. What she is planning to do now remains undisclosed. It is probably Ned Kalin who is trying to get approval to start maternally depriving baby monkeys. The university hasn’t been forthcoming about any of this. And I have been very negatively impacted by this dark news.


Anonymous said...

Allyson Bennet is becoming to science what Sarah Palin is to politics a sad angry side show, this comes from a person that worked with her both at Emory and Wake Forest

Anonymous said...

From Mimi:

Allyson Bennett Is no doctor...She thinks she is because she read books, has a paper on her wall saying so...The only thing she does for society is torture primates. Maternal depravation, come on like we didn’t already know that there can be trauma to a child growing up without that maternal bond and nurture? We needed Bennett to study this in primates to say to the world, I didn't find a cure for cancer, diabetes, dementia., But my maternal depravation studies prove to you that your child may become crazy, learning impaired, drug addict, dysfunctional, a serial killer even worse they may become a Vivisector....

Anonymous said...

@ rick bogle,
As I listened to your Youtube, Maternal Deprivation - UW Experiments on Monkeys, it occurred to me that using new molecular capabilities might accidentally lead to discovery of a method to prove abuse, with brain chemical or similar samples taken from a victim. Closed minded science and narrow opinions of the value of others contributions has long hampered discovery. Pulling strings works better than pushing them. Make sure that these extremely 'expensive' test materials are preserved in such a manner as to avoid the need for their painful replication. b9f8

Rick Bogle said...

Hi Anon,

I don't think there is an iota of meaning behind Kalin's claim of being able to utilize "new molecular capabilities" to identify differences in the brains of the deprived and less deprived baby monkeys he is using. His claims are far-fetched. But assuming that he could find some molecular difference between the brains of these two groups, what then? Would we biopsy the brains of puportedly abused children to look for those molecular differences? He's not making that claim though; his claim is simply absurd on its face: the negative effects of poor parenting,sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, you name it, his comparison of the brains of these two groups of abused baby male rhesus monkeys will lead directly to a treatment for such children. Pie in the sky that no one at the university could or even cared to try to stop.