Sunday, March 10, 2013

Kalin's cruelty unlikely to be of benefit

A key component in Ned Kalin's justification for using baby monkeys to model the effects of what he implies to be the universal effect of all forms of child abuse, neglect, and poor parenting, is his claim that he will discover new molecular pathways associated with possible differences between the brains of male rhesus babies who are isolated, maternally deprived, peer-reared, and repeatedly frightened when compared with the brains of other male rhesus babies who haven't had to endure quite as much cruelty. He says that these discoveries are certain to lead to better treatments. [Sneezing sound in closed fist muffles: "Bullshit!"]

He will look for differences in the development of the baby monkeys' neuromolecular pathways involved in emotion and mental affect by conducting three positron emission tomography (PET) scans of their brains over the course of their short lives.

Positron emission tomography utilizes radioactive atoms (isotopes) that are used to replace non-radioactive atoms in biologically active molecules like glucose. These atoms emit radioactive particles (or rays) that can be recorded by a PET scanner and translated into three dimensional images. As a result, when the radioactive version of the molecule or "tracer" is taken up by many cells in a particular area, a computed three dimensional image of that area can be created.

PET has been used for a number of years to investigate the biological underpinnings of the effects of various therapies for depression. Radioactive tracers that are used in PET scans can be radioactive versions of neuro-active chemicals. In theory, this means that someone, whether a retired banker or a baby a monkey, who has been diagnosed with depression or driven crazy by a vivisector, can be treated and then pre- and post-treatment  PET scans can record locations of the tracers and show where changes occurred. (In some cases, such changes might even be imaged in real time.) Such knowledge could, maybe, lead to a better understanding of the biological mechanisms of depression and the mechanisms that alleviate it.

It is perhaps worth mention that the monkeys Ned Kalin is using won't receive any therapy for their suffering. He is simply looking for variations between the brains of abused and not so abused baby monkeys.

Ned Kalin's use of PET scans must be based on an assumption that any changes disclosed by the scans between the two groups of baby monkeys will be associated with the detrimental impacts of the maternal deprivation, peer-rearing, and repeated frightening experiences they will be forced to endure. This assumption must be based on his belief that PET scans have provided us with knowledge of the specific changes in the molecular pathways associated with successful treatments for depression.

A recently published review of the results of PET scans by scientists in Denmark on the reported changes in brain chemistry of patients diagnosed with and treated for depression suggests quite strongly that Kalin's assumption is wholly unwarranted. It is likely, essentially certain, that the information generated by the PET scans he plans to conduct on the baby moneys will be of no consequence whatsoever to the victims of child abuse whose sad experiences he appeals to as a justification for the unquestionable harm he is causing.

The paper is "Molecular Neurobiology of Depression: PET Findings on the Elusive Correlation with Symptom Severity" by Donald F. Smith and Steen Jakobsen [My emphasis throughout]:
Molecular mechanisms in the brain are assumed to cause the symptoms and severity of neuropsychiatric disorders. This review concerns the elusive nature of relationships between the severity of depressive disorders and neuromolecular processes studied by positron emission tomography (PET). Recent PET studies of human depression have focused on serotonergic, dopaminergic, muscarinic, nicotinic, and GABAergic receptors, as well as central processes dependent on monoamine oxidase, phosphodiesterase type 4, amyloid plaques, neurofibrillar tangles, and P-glycoprotein. We find that reliable causal links between neuromolecular mechanisms and relief from depressive disorders have yet to be convincingly demonstrated. This situation may contribute to the currently limited use of PET for exploring the neuropathways that are currently viewed as being responsible for beneficial effects of antidepressant treatment regimes.
And later, in their general discussion:
The search continues for PET radioligands that can disclose causal links between the binding properties of central neuromolecular processes and the clinical condition of people suffering from depressive disorders. Our account of PET findings presented in this review is both critical and harsh, based on our serious concern regarding the current lack of clear-cut relationships between neuromolecular processes as measured by PET and changes in the severity of depression. In particular, beneficial effects of potent antidepressant treatments have typically failed to affect neuroreceptor binding of PET radioligands in subjects who were depressed at the start of the study, but who experienced clear-cut reductions in symptom severity.
The paper is available for free here: Molecular Neurobiology of Depression: PET Findings on the Elusive Correlation with Symptom Severity. Smith DF, Jakobsen S. Front Psychiatry. 2013.

The authors' findings suggest strongly, essentially prove, in my opinion, that the results of Kalin's cruel maternal deprivation and repeated fearful experience protocol have no chance of being of benefit to the victims of child abuse. (I'd emphasize the no chance even more, but Blogger has some limitations.)

In a sane world, Smith and Jakobsen's findings would result in the immediate cancellation of any project based on the assumption that PET scans would result in benefits to human patients if the project entailed harming animals.

But the liklihood of Kalin's project being canceled simply because one of his key claims has been shown to be scientifically baseless is nil. This is because the actual results of the overwhelming majority of experiments on animals are of such little value. The demonstration that this particular project is just more of the same is highly unlikely to matter at all.

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