Sunday, September 30, 2012

PeTA Skewers UW-Madison

Readers of this blog are familiar with the photographs of Double Trouble, the orange tabby tortured in Tom Yin's lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Readers may also have read or know that PeTA filed detailed complaints alleging multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act with the USDA and NIH after long and careful review of records from the Yin lab that they obtained through a public records request. It took a three-year-long court battle to get the photos. The university is all about transparency, they like to say.

Readers may also know that the university rebutted PeTA's complaints. They claimed that not even one of the problems or alleged violations PeTA detailed were true. It was all a publicity stunt explained Eric Sandgren, the university's point-man for triage of all the university's animal cruelty related media headline embarrassments.

Readers who looked at the university's Facebook page might also know that the university's rebuttal was universally and immediately declared absolute proof that the university was 100% right and PeTA 100% wrong by the tiny outspoken minority of pro-vivisection nutters who usually turn out to have clear financial stakes in the continuance of animal experimentation.

The simple fact that the university claimed it was innocent was more than sufficient proof for them. (Proof seems generally to be a difficult concept for vivisectors.)

PeTA has responded to the university's defense and exposed the spin and misleading claims they made. It appears that the university inadvertently admitted to yet further violations in its quick off-hand rebuttal to PeTA's charges. This won't have been the first time I've seen them trip over their protestations if this turns out to be the case.

Whether or not PeTA's claims are found to be substantial and actionable is a decision that will be made by NIH and the USDA, not the university. This simple fact has upset a number of the university's and the industry's supporters who see no reason for third-party oversight of what happens in the labs. Too bad for them.

You can read PeTA's response to the university's rebuttal here: PETA Response to University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Claims about Cruel Sound Localization Experiments on Cats.

Risks. Chapter 23

The Risks of Empathy, a Novella

Chapter 23

The three-way, live, TE had been more than either Stan or Earnie had imagined. There was still feed back and Karen had been confused for the first few instants, but the confusion dissolved into no confusion and a quickly escalating sense of largeness.

Karen was Ted being confused about what was happening, but she was also Earnie realizing that Ted was confused, and at that instant, the part of the group sense that was Ted was no longer confused because his confusion was lost in the others' understanding. And the experience of Ted's realization led to greater understanding when one experienced the other being the third, and the feedback fed the process and level upon level of understanding unfolded like the petals of the lotus.

Afterward, they were each trying to explain to Stan what it had been like. Ted sat serenely in the center of the lab, apparently listening with some understanding.

Earnie said, "It was so big."

Karen said, "I'm going to call it Big Mind."

Ted barked and Karen and Earnie looked at each other.

"Let's set the timer, Stan, you too. " And the four of them spent the next fifteen minutes expanding into Big Mind.

Twenty-four hours later many of the residents of HtH Cattle and Timber were no longer separated by the insuperable gulf. Now 'self' meant something larger and expansive, it was Big Mind.


Seven black helicopters dropped silently from the sky. There was no moon to belie the mirage of nothing. Ten nearly invisible heavily armed agents slipped from each helicopter and silently began moving toward the large house they each knew Richard Selling referred to as his cabin. Their night vision goggles found only a few animals standing or lying around. There seemed to be no guards at all.

Their orders were simple. Find and apprehend Richard Selling. Avoid killing him, but kill him rather than allow him to escape or avoid capture. Thirty men encircled the house while the other forty deployed at the various entrances. Twenty prepared to crash through the front door just as the other entrances were breeched. At the signal, all the doors were tested and found to be unlocked, but no one mentioned this to another group and the only message relayed was "We're in," as each group gained entrance. They began searching from room to room.

Outside, they were surprised when two cows came ambling up and proceeded to graze between the cordon of agents and the house. The standing order was radio silence and because the group leader didn't sense any danger, nothing was said.

Three more cows showed up. Then five more. Before long a large herd seemed to be walking past and pausing occasionally to calmly graze at the manicured lawn. As the cows milled about, the agents began losing sight of each other, but no one seemed too worried and the cows seemed to be just wandering through. At one particular moment though, each of the agents was isolated from all the others and simultaneously were surprised, overpowered, and drug away by four or five large dogs who had been shielded from view by the cows. When the cows wandered off, only a sleepy hound on the porch and a couple of goats lying and chewing their cud under a tree remained.

Inside, each of the four squads found secret entrances to secret hallways when a dog, or a cat was scratching at a concealed door. They each entered a large room at about the same time close on the heals of a cat or dog. As they entered, the doors behind them closed and the room was filled with gas before they could get their gas masks in place. No one fired a shot.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Situational Power

This is the seventh time on this blog that I've referred to The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. Here, I call attention to Chapter 12, "Investigating Social Dynamics."

Throughout the chapter, author Philip Zimbardo presents the results of a a number of psychological investigations into the propensity of people to go along with the crowd, to comply with authority, and to dismiss their own feelings and even concrete evidence that is directly in front of them.

You should think about the results of this body of work when trying to make sense of what is otherwise rather ridiculous claims made by those who argue that the oversight of experiments on animals is subject to careful ethical considerations.

Before giving an example from Zimbardo that illustrates how malleable our perceptions and beliefs actually are when certain situational influences are at work, I think it worthwhile to mention that even people studying this psychosocial phenomena are themselves at risk of being drawn in.

The first half of The Lucifer Effect is about the experiment conducted by Zimbardo that has come to be known as the Stanford Prison Experiment. It's not important to this short essay, but very briefly, Zimbardo turned an empty floor of a university building into a mock prison, randomly assigned volunteer male undergrads to role-play either prison guards or prisoners, and then let them "play" prison.

Things very quickly got out of hand, but Zimbardo himself was unable to see it until he invited a colleague to observe his experiment. She was horrified. Zimbardo realized he had fallen victim to the very phenomena he was studying. He writes,
In retrospect, my role transformation from usually compassionate teacher to data-focused researcher to callous prison superintendent was most distressing. I did improper or bizarre things in that new strange role.... I so fully adopted that role it made the prison "work" as well as it did. However, by adopting that role, with its focus on the security and maintenance of "my prison," I failed to appreciate the need to terminate the experiment as soon as the the second prisoner went over the edge. (p 218.)
If someone studying this phenomena is so at risk of falling victim to it, imagine how much more likely it is that it routinely ensnares others without their realizing it. One of the dangers of these social dynamics is that we generally assume that we are immune, its the weak willed other guy who is likely to just go along with the crowd. Zimbardo writes:
I must warn you of a bias you likely possess that might shield you from drawing the right conclusion from all you are about to read. Most of us construct self-enhancing, self-serving, egocentric biases that make us feel special--never ordinary, and certainly "above average." ...

Yet these biases can be maladaptive as well by blinding us to our similarity to others and distancing us from the reality that people just like us behave badly in certain toxic situations. Such biases mean that we don't take basic precautions to avoid the undesired consequences of our behavior, assuming it won't happen to us... In the extreme version of these biases, most people believe that they are less vulnerable to these self-serving biases than other people, even after being taught about them.
The biases Zimbardo is talking about cover a wide spectrum of circumstances, from Nationalism to local team spirit. The situational influences that govern and control what is done to an animal on a college or university campus is an extreme case. One example directly on point discussed by Zimbardo is the research reported in the paper Obedience to authority with an authentic victim. Sheridan, Charles L.; King, Richard G. Proceedings of the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association. 1972. Here's the abstract:
Instructed 13 male and 13 female undergraduates to deliver 30 graded shocks to a puppy. The extreme shocks, thought not actually so, were purportedly dangerous and labeled up to 450 v. Ss'[subjects'] levels of obedience were assessed by noting the shock level at which they refused to comply with instructions. Despite the reactions of the puppy to the shock, 54% of the male Ss and 100% of the female Ss threw all switches. The sex difference was statistically reliable. Thus, Ss obeyed authoritatively given commands even when the victim was authentic.
The puppy, standing on an electrified grid, was really being shocked, though at a lower level than shown on the voltage labels the students saw. The shocks were sufficient to make the puppy cry out and jump around. Some of the female students cried as they shocked the puppy with higher and higher voltages. The lesson here is that situational influences can easily make us do things we would otherwise believe we never would or even could.

The reason I got to thinking about all of this again is because of a long comment by UW-Madison associate professor Robert Streiffer during a public "forum" on animal research. I've written about these "forums" before on a number of occasions. Streiffer is a member of the Letters and Sciences Animal Care and Use Committee. He says on his website that his "research includes bioethics (both medical and agricultural), ethical theory, metaethics, and political philosophy, with a focus on ethical and policy issues arising from modern biotechnology."

You can watch the forum here. Streiffer begins speaking at about 45:00.

Here, I'm primarily interested in the remarks he makes beginning at about 50:35. He argues that a "thoroughgoing utilitarian decision-making process" occurs with regard to experiments on animals. He says that the researchers themselves are likely familiar with only a small part of the process which explains why they give "truncated" justifications for the things they do to animals when asked by a reporter. He argues that this thoroughgoing utilitarian decision-making process begins with Congress, then is continued by the NIH, then is continued by the university, then by university departments, the lab animal veterinarians and animal care staff, then the animal care and use committees, and then ("of course") the vivisector him or herself is responsible for parts of this thoroughgoing utilitarian decision-making process. And, because of all these steps along the way, yes indeed, a thoroughgoing utilitarian decision-making process is in place.

This seems a too convenient way to sidestep responsibility for what is done to an animal in one of the university labs. I questioned his claim at about 1:11:45. Streiffer finishes up his answer at about 1:16:00.

He argued in his prepared remarks that a thoroughgoing utilitarian decision-making process takes place, and then says in his answer to me that it's biased, but that there isn't too much we can do about it. He also says that in past forums that there has been some limited discussion about the systems in place to try and mitigate those biases -- which he agrees can be financial and caused by group membership. But I don't know of any such system or effort in place. In the end, he seems to just shake it all off and says oh well, what can we do?

Streiffer's claims about there being a thoroughgoing utilitarian decision-making process isn't very accurate with regard to the topic of and reasons for the forums, the ethics of animal research. In the thoroughgoing process he thinks he sees, the ethics of experiments on animals are not part of the discussion. The process sits squarely and unquestioned on the assumption by everyone in the system that using animals isn't a big deal or worthy of consideration.

When I say that Streiffer thinks he sees something that isn't actually there, I'm not being trite. In fact, research discussed by Zimbardo makes if very clear that situational pressures will make people see things that aren't as they claim them to be if others around them claim to seem them that way. This has been demonstrated in a number of studies. The opinions of those around genuinely change what we beleie we see, even when the change we think we see isn't real.

When challenged, and generally only when challenged, those who experiment on animals pontificate about their goals and high ideals and rail on at length about how much their critics must hate sick babies. But they've been conditioned by their membership in their group to respond like this. The proof that there isn't likely to be any discussion about the costs to animals themselves during Streiffer's imagined thoroughgoing utilitarian decision-making process is simple to see: essentially everyone along the way eats animals.

The taste of an animal's fried flesh is a significant enough reason to raise and kill them. This is believed by essentially all the decision makers in Streiffer's imagined thoroughgoing utilitarian decision-making process. The idea that some more meaningful justification is needed prior to approving someone's getting a massive amount of money to poison a bunch of rats, to drill holes in cats' heads, or to raise monkeys without mothers is too silly to believe.

The connection with this and Zimbardo is the apparent consumption of Streiffer's better judgement due to his now extended membership in a group situation that includes most and perhaps all the elements identified by sociologists as reinforcements to the subjugation of independent thought.

Zimbardo summarizes these elements in what he calls "Ten Lessons from the Milgram Studies: Creating Evil Traps for Good People." (See his on-line version here:

1. Offering an Ideology so that a big lie provides justification for any means to be used to achieve the seemingly desirable, essential goal. Presenting an acceptable justification, or rationale, for engaging in the undesirable action ...

-- Everything we do to animals, no matter how much pain and misery it causes is fully justified because it is for the good of Humanity. Human Exceptionalism.

2. Arranging some form of contractual obligation, verbal or written, to enact the behavior.

3. Giving participants meaningful roles to play [ACUC membership] that carry with them previously learned positive values and response scripts.

4. Presenting basic rules to be followed, that seem to make sense prior to their actual use, but then can be arbitrarily used to justify mindless compliance.

-- All protocols will be approved when every box is appropriately checked and questions are answered in an approved manner.

5. Altering the semantics of the act, the actor, and the action, [from hurting victims to helping children] -- replace reality with desirable rhetoric.

6.Creating opportunities for diffusion of responsibility for negative outcomes; others will be responsible...

-- this seems to describe Strieffer's imagined thoroughgoing utilitarian decision-making process.

7. Starting the path toward the ultimate evil act with a small, insignificant first step.

-- Just sit in on a few of our meetings.

8. Having successively increasing steps on the pathway be gradual, so that they are hardly noticed as being different from one’s most recent prior action.

9. Changing the nature of the influence authority from initially “Just” and reasonable to “Unjust” and demanding, even irrational, elicits initial compliance and later confusion, but continued obedience.

10. Making the "exit costs" high, and making the process of exiting difficult by allowing usual forms of verbal dissent (that make people feel good about themselves), while insisting on behavioral compliance (“I know you are not that kind of person, just keep doing as I tell you.”)

-- Whistleblowers are frightened and want to remain anonymous; people speak to colleagues or outsiders on the sly and are afraid to be seen by the group as a critic.

I hope people like Robert Streiffer who themselves don't experiment on animals, and thus might not be quite as under the Situation's influence, will take the time to reread, or read for the first time, at least part of the very large body of research that explains to a large degree why otherwise good people so often end up doing really despicable things if ordered or encouraged to do so.

The good news is that some people's actions in the face of toxic situations have shown us that these strong negative influences are not universally able to corrupt everyone all the time.

Risks. Chapter 22

The Risks of Empathy, a Novella

Chapter 22

The secrecy and skullduggery that had entered Rita's life thrilled her in a way lthat few other things had been able to in the past hundred and sixty some odd years. She met clandestinely - sometimes in a back booth at Jim's Lounge - with three other regulars to discuss the news they were picking up on their TEs. They felt encouraged to strike out with guerilla tactics upon learning that other people across the country were doing the exact sorts of things that they were and not getting caught. Nothing about the growing underground resistance to the outlawing of Selling, the TEs, martial law, or the implication of the animal TEs was being broadcast on any of the 687 vert view channels or on any of the government's non-Selling TE channels. If people were getting their news from the major media, they could only believe that the government had matters well in hand.

But Rita and her friends knew differently. Somehow, Selling was managing to get Total Experience recordings made and broadcast. There was no question of being manipulated or lied to when one actually became someone storming a small lab, or someone throwing a flaming Molotov cocktail through a butcher shop window. It was real, and the fervor, passion and commitment was experienced by everyone using a contraband Selling TE receiver.

Rita and her friends met secretly nearly every day in locations that changed regularly. Occasionally they would meet in a member's apartment, but they avoided meeting in the same place twice in the same week. This meant that they were always on the lookout for hidden spots in the city. On this day, they were sitting on two benches in a secluded section of a large park. Two of them, Rita and a man, were wearing their TEs and experiencing the news. The other two watched down the path and listened for voices that might signal someone's approach. They all knew that being caught with a Selling TE meant immediate prison.


Stan stood in the center of the lab sort of looking this way and that. His lips were pursing, and he seemed to chewing on his tongue. Karen looked inquisitively at Earnie.

Earnie said, "He looks goofy when he thinks."

"Why not?" announced Stan. "But one of us needs to be able to monitor everyone else. Hum, let's use Ted."

Ted's left ear perked slightly at the mention of his name.

In short order Karen, Ted, and Earnie were all wired up. "OK you guys," said Stan, "Unless I can tell that you are not all snarled in some sort of a crazy loop, I'm going to make this really short. Maybe five minutes. OK?"

Karen and Earnie nodded their agreement. Ted was lying at Stan's feet, seemingly resolved to another odd request by the humans in his life.

"Here we go," and Stan threw a switch.

Ted raised his head immediately and gave a short bark. But he didn't seem distressed. Karen raised her right arm and held it out in front of herself for a moment.

Earnie, very slowly and in measured syllables, said, "This - is - ver - y - dif - fer - ent."

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Semi-starvation, semi-ethics

I missed a recent live on-line chat on called "Do Hungry Primates Live Longer?" Here's the moderator's intro:
Jennifer Couzin-Frankel: Hello everyone and welcome to Science Live. Today we're going to talk about calorie restriction, primates, and aging.

For years, scientists have known that under certain conditions calorie restriction can dramatically slow aging in many species, like worms and mice. But one big test was whether the intervention also worked in monkeys. Figuring this out takes decades because the animals have naturally long life spans, not unlike people. We now have results from two studies, one suggesting that calorie restriction extends life, the other suggesting it doesn’t. Here to chat with us today are Ricki Colman of the University of Wisconsin, who helped lead one of the studies, and Julie Mattison of the National Institute on Aging, who helped lead the other. We’re delighted you both can join us.
Not too far into the discussion, this exchange took place:
Comment From Brandon Keim: I'm a science reporter for Wired, and have written about both these studies. As time goes on, I find myself less comfortable with the animal ethics involved. I'm not opposed to biomedical testing on animals, but I do believe the suffering we inflict should be minimized, and that it must be outweighed by benefits to humans. As a scientific consideration related to those benefits, when seeking to extrapolate from animal studies to human insights it's important to minimize potentially confounding factors, such as the relationship between psychology and physiology. Given that rhesus monkeys are highly social, relatively intelligent and capable of feeling, why not run calorie restriction studies on monkeys living in social, enriched environments, rather than in long-term isolation? It would be more difficult to ensure equal food consumption, but this doesn't seem insurmountable -- the monkeys could be separated from one another during feeding. And as the monkeys would be far less stressed and less depressed living in social, quasi-natural environments than in isolation, we could ostensibly learn much more from them.

Ricki Colman: Brandon - you have raised a good point. The ethics involved in the research we perform should always be considered. Although the animals in these studies are not housed in natural social groups, they are by no means living in isolation. Unfortunately compromises must be made to perform highly controlled scientific studies. In addition to the social environment within their rooms, all animals are provided with extensive environmental enrichment. Performing these studies on socially living animals would be extremely difficult and could not be done without extensive training prior to study initiation.
Colman's response is pretty weak; it repeats euphemisms and wholly misleads listeners.

Coleman's claims:

1. "The ethics involved in the research we perform should always be considered."

That's true. But there isn't a mechanism in place for doing so, so it doesn't get done very often.  For instance, at a recent animal care and use committee (ACUC) meeting at the University of Wisconsin, Madison -- the same place Coleman works -- there was a discussion about Ned Kalin's (Chair of the Med School psychiatry dept) request for committee approval to maternally deprive 20 male rhesus newborns. There was almost a serious discussion about the ethics surrounding the request but the primate center's attending vet  Buddy Capuano, shot it down. It's pretty clear that such discussions are very rare. Here's a passage from the minutes of the closed session:
... Krugner-Higby 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 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. [my emphasis] 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....
When the semi-starvation study was started at UW-Madison in 1989, the amendment to the Animal Welfare Act that mandated labs to provide some environmental enrichment was still relatively new and was being widely resisted and criticized by the industry. Though passed by Congress in 1985, the USDA did not promulgate regulations requiring psychological enrichment until 1991, and did not undertake an industry-wide survey to assess the effects of or compliance with its new regulations for another 5 years. (see: FINAL REPORT ON ENVIRONMENT ENHANCEMENT TO PROMOTE THE PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING OF NONHUMAN PRIMATES. U. S. Department of Agriculture. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Animal Care. Riverdale, MD. July 15, 1999.)

It's very unlikely that much discussion about the ethics of isolating monkeys and keeping them hungry forever, ever took place among primate vivisectors at UW-Madison in 1989. And to the degree it did, it took place at an institution that was hosting research that led to reports like this one from primate vivisectors at the university the same year the semi-starvation study was begun: A longitudinal study of the effect of differentsocial rearing conditions on cerebrospinal fluid norepinephrine and biogenicamine metabolites in rhesus monkeys. Kraemer GW, Ebert MH, Schmidt DE, McKinney WT. Neuropsychopharmacology. 1989. Here's a quote: "The purpose of this study was to determine whether disruption of early social attachment alters the activity of brain biogenic amine systems in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). Male rhesus monkey infants were deprived of maternal interaction, peer interaction, or both, during the first 22 months of life."

2. "Although the animals in these studies are not housed in natural social groups, they are by no means living in isolation."

The claim that individually housed monkeys are "by no means living in isolation" is more a euphemism than a statement of fact. This is a common claim whenever the term isolation is used in reference to singly caged monkeys. To a much greater extent than in humans, normal sociobiological behavior of rhesus monkeys involves much physical contact. The forced deprivation of physical contact is likely to produce significant detrimental psychological and physiological effects. Social grooming is an important component of normal macaque behavior. The lack of opportunity to groom and be groomed is isolation if you are a rhesus monkey.

3. "Unfortunately compromises must be made to perform highly controlled scientific studies."

There was no compromise. A compromise would have been necessary if those designing the experiment had disagreed with each other. With regard to giving the monkeys opportunities for direct social contact, this is so unlikely as to be very far-fetched. Colman was posturing, saying we wish we didn't have to be so cruel, because she was speaking in public. Utter nonsense. There was, of course, a real compromise: the monkeys lives were and are being compromised, but that not the sense of the word as Coleman was using it.

4. "In addition to the social environment within their rooms, all animals are provided with extensive environmental enrichment"

But environmental enrichment -- other than social housing -- has not been very successful at ameliorating the various forms of mental illness that are so common in individually caged rhesus monkeys. (See: Stereotypic and self-injurious behavior inrhesus macaques: a survey and retrospective analysis of environment and early experience. Lutz C, Well A, Novak M. Am J Primatol. 2003, and Risk factors and remediation of self-injuriousand self-abuse behavior in rhesus macaques. Rommeck I, Anderson K, Heagerty A, Cameron A, McCowan B. J Appl Anim Welf Sci. 2009.)

The "social environment within their rooms"? What can that mean? Maybe this:

5. "Performing these studies on socially living animals would be extremely difficult and could not be done without extensive training prior to study initiation."

So what? Extensive? What about 30 years of mind-numbing social isolation and gnawing hunger? These people pay much lip service to the things they want the public to believe about them... life saving research, humane care, ethical review, transparency, responsibility, blah, blah, blah...

... “this brings us to an obvious but mostly overlooked weakness in the vivisector's position: that is, his inevitable forfeiture of all claim to have his word believed. It is hardly to be expected that a man who does not hesitate to vivisect for the sake of science will hesitate to lie about it afterwards to protect it from what he deems the ignorant sentimentality of the laity.” (The Doctor's Dilemma, Getting Married, and The Shewing-up of Blanco. George Bernard Shaw. 1911.)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Citations of a Yin Publication

A few days after PETA released the photos of Double Trouble, the cat at the center of their complaints to the USDA and NIH, an editorial by Dr. Lawrence Hansen was published in the Wisconsin State Journal. See Dr. Lawrence Hansen: Cruel cat experiments unnecessary. 9-15-2012.

An anonymous poster took exception to Hansen's statement that Yin's work isn't being cited "in studies on human hearing" and pointed to a couple examples of scientists studying human hearing that he or she felt proved the point. I wondered about this.

If you go to Google Scholar and enter Yin TC or Yin TCT, you'll be able to find many papers by him, and by clicking "cited by" under an entry you can see papers that cite that one. Try it yourself:

I skimmed through some of the titles and finally picked one that seemed fairly on point for the sound localization experiments that Double Trouble was used in. That paper is:

Behavioral studies of sound localization in the cat
LC Populin, TCT Yin - The Journal of Neuroscience, 1998.

According to Scholar it has been cited 90 times. It is the only paper I have looked at, so am making no specific claims about Yin's work overall.

I looked at each citation. If the title of the referring paper was clear, I didn't look at the abstract or the paper itself. If I was unable to tell from the title whether the referring paper was a paper on human hearing or a report on experiments on animals, I looked further, sometimes having to look at the Materials and Methods sections of the papers.

I eliminated most review articles under the belief that they were likely to cite any and every paper published over some period of time on a particular topic. I made one exception and included a review of papers based on experiments on monkeys. I also eliminated book chapters.

I ended up with a list of 73 papers published in scientific journals and one doctoral dissertation. Scholar included a paper dated two years prior to "Behavioral studies" but I went ahead and included it in the list.

In summary, 72 papers cited Yin's "Behavioral studies of sound localization in the cat."

36 of the papers are reports on experiments on cats.
7 of the papers are reports on experiments on owls.
5 of the papers are reports on experiments on bats.
5 of the papers are reports on experiments on monkeys.
2 of the papers are reports on experiments on Mongolian gerbils.
1 of the papers is a report on experiments on "small ground-living animals."
1 of the papers is a report on experiments on mice.
1 of the papers is a report on experiments on "unanesthetized animals."
1 of the papers is a report on experiments on ferrets.
1 of the papers is a report on experiments on budgerigars (parakeets).
1 of the papers is a report on experiments on sand cats (Felis margarita).
1 of the papers is a report on experiments on Long-Evans rats.
1 of the papers is a report on experiments on "Three Species of Birds."
1 of the papers is a report on a computational model of the precedence effect.
4 of the papers are citations of Yin's paper by people studying humans. Three of them are from the same authors and have nothing to do with Yin's experiments on cats. Here's the passage that cites Yin:
Our goal was to develop a system that uses only a single muscle, which preferably was not used for any other natural function. As such, we chose the auricularis superior (AS) muscle (above the ear) which has no known use in humans (animals use a functionally equivalent muscle to direct the ear toward a sound source [21]). ( [21] L. C. Populin and T. C. T. Yin, “Behavioral studies of sound localization in the cat,” J. Neurosci., vol. 18, pp. 2147–2160, 1998.)
The one paper that cites Yin that is a report from scientists studying human hearing is Human sound-localization behavior accounts for ocular drift. TJ Van Grootel, AJ Van Opstal - Journal of neurophysiology, 2010.

Reading through the paper it doesn't appear to me that their work with humans relied on Yin's paper, but its subject matter is over my head. In any case, it's clear that this one paper, Behavioral studies of sound localization in the cat, has been largely ignored by scientists and doctors studying human hearing.

Maybe someone else will repeat this exercise for other papers from the Yin lab.

The list of referring papers summarized above:

Papers Citing: Behavioral studies of sound localization in the cat LC Populin, TCT Yin - The Journal of neuroscience, 1998

1. The structure of spatial receptive fields of neurons in primary auditory cortex of the cat JF Brugge, RA Reale, JE Hind - The Journal of neuroscience, 1996

2. Physiological studies of the precedence effect in the inferior colliculus of the cat. II. Neural mechanisms RY Litovsky, TCT Yin - Journal of neurophysiology, 1998

3. Cortical control of sound localization in the cat: unilateral cooling deactivation of 19 cerebral areas S Malhotra, AJ Hall, SG Lomber - Journal of neurophysiology, 2004

4. Location coding by opponent neural populations in the auditory cortex [cats] GC Stecker, IA Harrington, JC Middlebrooks - PLoS biology, 2005

5. Double dissociation of 'what' and 'where' processing in auditory cortex [cats] SG Lomber, S Malhotra - Nature neuroscience, 2008

6. Physiological studies of the precedence effect in the inferior colliculus of the cat. I. Correlates of psychophysics RY Litovsky, TCT Yin - Journal of neurophysiology, 1998

7. Bimodal interactions in the superior colliculus of the behaving cat LC Populin, TCT Yin - The Journal of neuroscience, 2002

8. Responses of neurons to click-pairs as simulated echoes: auditory nerve to auditory cortex [unanesthetized animals] DC Fitzpatrick, S Kuwada, DO Kim, K Parham, R Batra - The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 1999

9. Individual differences in external-ear transfer functions of cats L Xu, JC Middlebrooks - The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 2000

10. Can two streams of auditory information be processed simultaneously? Evidence from the gleaning bat Antrozous pallidus JR Barber, KA Razak, ZM Fuzessery - Journal of Comparative Physiology …, 2003

11. Neural correlates of the precedence effect in the inferior colliculus: effect of localization cues [cats] RY Litovsky, B Delgutte - Journal of neurophysiology, 2002

12. Sound localization during homotopic and heterotopic bilateral cooling deactivation of primary and nonprimary auditory cortical areas in the cat S Malhotra, SG Lomber - Journal of neurophysiology, 2007

13. Sound-localization performance in the cat: the effect of restraining the head DJ Tollin, LC Populin, JM Moore… - Journal of …, 2005

14. Pinna movements of the cat during sound localization LC Populin, TCT Yin - The Journal of neuroscience, 1998

15. Responses of auditory cortical neurons to pairs of sounds: correlates of fusion and localization [cats] BJ Mickey, JC Middlebrooks - Journal of Neurophysiology, 2001

16. Azimuth coding in primary auditory cortex of the cat. I. Spike synchrony versus spike count representations JJ Eggermont, JE Mossop - Journal of neurophysiology, 1998

17. Psychophysical investigation of an auditory spatial illusion in cats: the precedence effect DJ Tollin, TCT Yin - Journal of neurophysiology, 2003

18. Spectral cues explain illusory elevation effects with stereo sounds in cats DJ Tollin, TCT Yin - Journal of neurophysiology, 2003

19. Functional specialization in non-primary auditory cortex of the cat: areal and laminar contributions to sound localization SG Lomber, S Malhotra, AJ Hall - Hearing research, 2007

20. Monkey sound localization: head-restrained versus head-unrestrained orienting LC Populin - The Journal of neuroscience, 2006

21. The Precedence Effect in Three Species of Birds (Melopsittacus undulatus, Serinus canaria, and Taeniopygia guttata). ML Dent, RJ Dooling - Journal of Comparative Psychology, 2004

22. Neural correlates of the precedence effect in the inferior colliculus of behaving cats DJ Tollin, LC Populin, TCT Yin - Journal of neurophysiology, 2004

23. Sound-localization experiments with barn owls in virtual space: influence of broadband interaural level difference on head-turning behavior I Poganiatz, H Wagner - Journal of Comparative Physiology A: …, 2001

24. Anesthetics change the excitation/inhibition balance that governs sensory processing in the cat superior colliculus LC Populin - The Journal of neuroscience, 2005

25. Sound localization by barn owls in a simulated echoic environment MW Spitzer, TT Takahashi - Journal of neurophysiology, 2006

26. Influence of the facial ruff on the sound-receiving characteristics of the barn owl's ears M Von Campenhausen, H Wagner - Journal of Comparative Physiology A: …, 2006

27. Sound localization deficits during reversible deactivation of primary auditory cortex and/or the dorsal zone [cats] S Malhotra, GC Stecker… - Journal of … neurophysiology, 2008

28. Effect of eye position on saccades and neuronal responses to acoustic stimuli in the superior colliculus of the behaving cat LC Populin, DJ Tollin, TCT Yin - Journal of neurophysiology, 2004

29. Postnatal development of sound pressure transformations by the head and pinnae of the cat: monaural characteristics DJ Tollin, K Koka - The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 2009

30. Sound localization behavior in ferrets: comparison of acoustic orientation and approach-to-target responses FR Nodal, VM Bajo, CH Parsons, JW Schnupp, AJ King - Neuroscience, 2008

31. Graded sparing of visually-guided orienting following primary visual cortex ablations within the first postnatal month [cats] BR Payne, SG Lomber, CD Gelston - Behavioural brain research, 2000

32. Sensitivity of auditory cortical neurons to the locations of leading and lagging sounds [cats] BJ Mickey, JC Middlebrooks - Journal of neurophysiology, 2005

33. Investigations of the precedence effect in budgerigars: The perceived location of auditory images ML Dent, RJ Dooling - The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 2003

34. The absence of spatial echo suppression in the echolocating bats Megaderma lyra and Phyllostomus discolor M Schuchmann, M Hübner… - Journal of experimental biology, 2006

35. Can measures of sound localization acuity be related to the precision of absolute location estimates? [cats] JM Moore, DJ Tollin, TCT Yin - Hearing research, 2008

36. Mammalian ear specializations in arid habitats: structural and functional evidence from sand cat (Felis margarita) G Huang, J Rosowski, M Ravicz, W Peake - Journal of Comparative Physiology, 2002

37. Resolution in azimuth sound localization in the Mongolian gerbil (Meriones unguiculatus) JK Maier, GM Klump - The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 2006

38. Improvements of sound localization abilities by the facial ruff of the barn owl (Tyto alba) as demonstrated by virtual ruff removal L Hausmann, M Von Campenhausen, F Endler… - PloS one, 2009

39. Substrates of auditory frequency integration in a nucleus of the lateral lemniscus [mustached bat] A Yavuzoglu, BR Schofield, JJ Wenstrup - Neuroscience, 2010

40. The local loop of the saccadic system closes downstream of the superior colliculus [cats] R Kato, A Grantyn, Y Dalezios, AK Moschovakis - Neuroscience, 2006

41. Physiological and psychophysical modeling of the precedence effect [computational model] J Xia, A Brughera, HS Colburn… - JARO- Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology, 2010

42. Influence of sound source location on the behavior and physiology of the precedence effect in cats ML Dent, DJ Tollin, TCT Yin - Journal of neurophysiology, 2009

43. Postnatal development of sound pressure transformations by the head and pinnae of the cat: Binaural characteristics DJ Tollin, K Koka - The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 2009

44. Spatial sound detection and the role of the inferior colliculus in the Long-Evans rat MC Zrull, JR Coleman - Acta oto-laryngologica, 1999

45. Psychophysical and physiological studies of the precedence effect in cats ML Dent, DJ Tollin, TCT Yin - Acta acustica united with acustica, 2005

46. Owl's behavior and neural representation predicted by Bayesian inference BJ Fischer, JL Peña - Nature neuroscience, 2011

47. Psychophysical and physiological studies of the precedence effect and echo threshold in the behaving cat D Tollin, M Dent, T Yin - Auditory Signal Processing, 2005

48. Cats exhibit the Franssen Effect illusion ML Dent, DJ Tollin, TCT Yin - The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 2004

49. Circuitry underlying spectrotemporal integration in the auditory midbrain [mustached bats] A Yavuzoglu, BR Schofield… - The Journal of Neuroscience, 2011

50. Kinematics of eye movements of cats to broadband acoustic targets LC Populin, TCT Yin - Journal of neurophysiology, 1999

51. Perception of auditory signals [review of “recent studies in the macaque monkey”] GH Recanzone - Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 2011

52. Localization dominance and the effect of frequency in the Mongolian Gerbil, Meriones unguiculatus M Wolf, M Schuchmann, L Wiegrebe - Journal of Comparative Physiology …, 2010

53. Brain–Muscle–Computer Interface: Mobile-Phone Prototype Development and Testing [human] S Vernon, SS Joshi - Information Technology in Biomedicine, …, 2011

In context:
Many novel systems have been developed to date that interface body parts with assistive technologies for severely paralyzed persons. Each of these systems has unique advantages and disadvantages. Previously developed systems include headcontrolled systems [1], tongue-operated systems [17], eye-gaze systems [18], voice systems [19], and breath operated systems [20]. One potential issue with these systems is that they use muscles and/or functions that are needed for other vital activities. For example, tongue operated systems require full dedication of the mouth, and eye-gaze systems require full dedication of the eyes. Our goal was to develop a system that uses only a single muscle, which preferably was not used for any other natural function. As such, we chose the auricularis superior (AS) muscle (above the ear) which has no known use in humans (animals use a functionally equivalent muscle to direct the ear toward a sound source [21]). [21] L. C. Populin and T. C. T. Yin, “Behavioral studies of sound localization in the cat,” J. Neurosci., vol. 18, pp. 2147–2160, 1998.
54. Sensitivity of the mouse to changes in azimuthal sound location: angular separation, spectral composition, and sound level. PD Allen, JR Ison - Behavioral neuroscience, 2010

55. Brain-muscle-computer interface using a single surface electromyographic signal: Initial results [human. Same citation as above re the auricularis superior (AS) muscle] SS Joshi, AS Wexler… - … (NER), 2011 5th …, 2011 -

56. Target modality determines eye-head coordination in nonhuman primates: implications for gaze control LC Populin, AZ Rajala - Journal of Neurophysiology, 2011

57. Human sound-localization behavior accounts for ocular drift [human] TJ Van Grootel, AJ Van Opstal - Journal of neurophysiology, 2010

58. Object localization in cluttered acoustical environments [barn owl] TT Takahashi, CH Keller, BS Nelson, MW Spitzer… - Biological cybernetics, 2008

59. Spatial echo suppression and echo-acoustic object normalization in echolocating bats M Schuchmann - 2007 -

60. Acoustic pursuit of invisible moving targets by cats RE Beitel - The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 1999

61. Responses of neurons in the cat primary auditory cortex to sequential sounds J Zhang, KT Nakamoto, LM Kitzes - Neuroscience, 2009

62. Direct projections of omnipause neurons to reticulospinal neurons: A double-labeling light microscopic study in the cat A Grantyn, B Kuze, AM Brandi… - The Journal of Comparative Neurology, 2010

63. Location Coding by Opponent Neural Populations in the Auditory Cortex [cats] 医学期刊, 医学会议, 医学教育, 专业资料, 医学论坛… [Chinese characters] -

64. Multidimensional control using a mobile-phone based brain-muscle-computer interface [human, as above] S Vernon, SS Joshi - … in Medicine and Biology Society, EMBC, …, 2011 -

65. Functional Specialization in Primary and Non-primary Auditory Cortex [cat] SG Lomber, AJ McMillan - The Auditory Cortex, 2011

66. Short-latency, goal-directed movements of the pinnae to sounds that produce auditory spatial illusions [cats] DJ Tollin, EM McClaine, TCT Yin - Journal of neurophysiology, 2010

67. Time course of allocation of spatial attention by acoustic cues in non-human primates LC Populin, AZ Rajala - European Journal of Neuroscience, 2010

68. The impact of early reflections on binaural cues [small ground-living animals] B Gourévitch, R Brette - The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 2012

69. The roles of auditory brainstem structures in analyses of complex sounds [dissertation. mustached bats] A Yavuzoglu - 2010 -
Seventeen adult mustached bats (Pteronotus parnellii), captured in Trinidad and Tobago, were used to examine sources of inputs to combinatorial neurons of the intermediate nucleus of the lateral lemniscus (INLL). Sixteen mustached bats (Pteronotus parnellii) captured from Trinidad and Tobago, were used to examine sources of inputs to facilitative combinatorial neurons of the inferior colliculus (IC). Our procedures were approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee at the Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy. These procedures follow guidelines set by the National Institutes of Health for the care and use of laboratory animals.
70. The need for a cool head: reversible inactivation reveals functional segregation in auditory cortex [cats] CJ Sumner, AR Palmer, DR Moore - Nature neuroscience, 2008

71. Behavioral responses to frequency-specific head-related transfer functions as filtered by the facial ruff in the Barn owl (Tyto alba) EL Hausmann – 2010

72. Dissociative effects of methylphenidate in nonhuman primates: Trade-offs between cognitive and behavioral performance AZ Rajala, JB Henriques, LC Populin - Journal of cognitive neuroscience, 2012 - MIT Press

Monday, September 17, 2012

Trust us.

In news that will shock very few people, The LA Times today reported on its review of documents that the Boy Scouts of America has fought hard at at great expense to keep hidden from public view. See Boy Scouts helped alleged molesters cover tracks, files show. "When volunteers and employees were suspected of sexually abusing children, Boy Scout officials often didn't tell police, files from 1970-91 reveal. In many cases they sought to hide the situation." (Los Angeles Times. September 16, 2012.)

Placed alongside the Boy Scouts' position on gay scouts and troop leaders, this revelation is particularly ugly. See Boy Scouts Reconfirm Policy: No Gays Allowed. (ABC News July 17, 2012.)

The similarity between the policies and coverups of the Boy Scouts and Catholic Church are hard to miss. The Catholic Church opposes gay marriage, homosexuality, and same-sex relationships but has shielded and abetted its priests when they've been caught diddling the children under their control.

It seems that individuals who make strong claims about how terrible they believe homosexuality to be commonly engage in gay sex and hide it by speaking the loudest against it. Let me hear you say "Pastor Ted," leader of the National Association of Evangelicals. Their organizations then shield them after learning what they do. This isn't an original observation.

People who experiment on animals and the institutions that hire such people and facilitate their evil deeds want you and me to believe that they are more trustworthy than Evangelical ministers, the Catholic Church, or the Boy Scouts of America.

But they're not. They are just as weak as everyone else; you and me included. When money, and in the case of the Catholic Church, the BSA, the National Association of Evangelicals, and NIH grant recipients are concerned it's really vast riches, no one is able to speak honestly when doing so is likely to slow the torrent of cash coming in. This is why transparency is so very important and public oversight absolutely critical when the institution is part of the government.

Here are a couple statements from three universities receiving tax dollars to experiment on animals. Like the Catholic Church, the BSA, the National Association of Evangelicals, we have to take what they say on such matters with a large grain of salt.

"[S]cientists who work with animals are devoted to making sure their animal partners treated with care and concern. Humane and gentle treatment is the utmost concern in animal care at the University of Toledo [Ohio]." But then in an experiment at the University of Toledo, a vivisector explains: "[W]e will determine whether EGCG downregulates CCR1/CCR5 receptor expression to inhibit angiogenesis, and cartilage and bone destruction in a rat AIA model of RA."

A little digging turns up this description of the "rat AIA model of RA": "Adjuvant-Induced Arthritis (AIA) was used as a model for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and is currently considered as a model for reactive arthritis. Chondrex provides various types of Complete Freund’s Adjuvant (CFA) for inducing AIA. AIA can be easily induced in susceptible strains of rats by a single subcutaneous injection of adjuvant into a footpad or at the base of the tail."

And a little more digging: "There are limitations of this model for chronic studies of pain/arthritis since the severe systemic changes provoke ethical concerns and also affect behaviour, physiology and biochemistry." (The last passage is from the paper A limited arthritic model for chronic pain studies in the rat. Butler SH, et al. Pain. 1992.

The University of Michigan says: "The University insists on humane and ethical treatment of any animals used in research, instruction, and testing." But UM is home to Gail Winger and the James H. Woods. In 2010, they reported that "Six adult (3 males and 3 females) rhesus monkeys participated [!] in the nociception experiment. [Nociception is essentially plain old pain.] Three adult (2 males and 1 female) rhesus monkeys participated in the remifentanil self-administration experiment. All monkeys were housed individually with free access to water in stainless steel cages." [I edited out unimportant details like the animals' weights] They continue: "In the monkeys participating in the remifentanil self-administration study, silicone rubber indwelling i.v. catheters were implanted in a jugular, femoral, external jugular, or brachial vein and were routed subcutaneously to the midscapular area of each monkey. Flexible tethers protecting the catheters were held in place by a Teflon mesh jacket and connected behind the cages to infusion pumps." And more: "The warm water tail-withdrawal assay was used to measure nociceptive responses to thermal stimuli and the duration of action of the antinociceptive effects of test compounds. Monkeys were seated in primate-restraining chairs, which allowed access to their shaved tails (approximately 15 cm). Nociception evaluation was performed by placing the tail in a thermal flask containing water maintained at 50° C. [That's 122° on the more common Fahrenheit scale. For comparison, manufactures and government agencies recommend not exceeding 104° in a hot tub.] The time required for the monkey to remove its tail from the warm water was recorded. If a monkey did not remove its tail within 20 sec, the flask was removed and a maximum time of 20 sec was recorded." And on and on.

The University of Wisconsin, Madison, to it's credit, doesn't seem to use the word "humane" very often in conjunction with its animal use program. That university seems to be operating at a very basic moral level. It might have been Jean Piaget who first made the observation that young children regard rules as fixed or absolute. Lawrence Kohlberg followed up on this by making finer distinctions in moral development but that hardly matters in this case because he too recognized that young children believe that authorities set fixed rules which must be obeyed. In both views, if they were able to have discussions about morals and ethics, children would see themselves as acting morally by following the rules.

And this is what UW-madison seems to be doing on its webpages which you can read here.

But, like certain Evangelical ministers, the Catholic Church, and the Boy Scouts of America, and in spite of assurances that all is well because it knows the laws and regulations, the UW-Madison, and similar institutions around the country regularly get caught treating animals very poorly -- in spite of their rhetoric about being gentle, humane, or even just lawful.

No one should be surprised by these institutions and the people working for them saying one thing and doing another. Whenever ungodly amounts of money are at stake, everything else fades away to unimportance -- even the screams of animals being hurt. The rhetoric is tailored to misrepresent the reality behind the locked doors and hidden webpages; the rhetoric is tailored to fool you into believing that all is well and that you ought not be concerned. If you worry enough, you might cause a stink and cost them a dime or two.

But three years of fighting in court to block the release of photographs of what I believe to be evidence of very common similar occurrences shows pretty strongly just what these institutions and people who work for them actually believe about how you would react if you ever learned the whole truth.

Trust us, they say.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Care about animals? Vote Green

More than not over the years, my vote for state and national candidates have been aimed at keeping someone out of office rather than getting someone into office. I've generally had to hold my nose and vote for someone I found a little less repulsive than the other guy.

This year, I'm going to vote for someone for a change. I have no illusion about the likelihood that my candidate will win, but my nose is sore.

This year I'm voting for any and every Green candidate on the ballot. I think anyone who cares about people, the environment, and believes that animals should be treated respectfully ought to do so too.

Check out the Green Party Platform. Here's their position on animals; the Democrats and the Republicans don't even mention animals.

Ethical Treatment Of Animals

Cruelty to animals is repugnant and criminal. The mark of a humane and civilized society lies in how we treat the least protected among us. To extend rights to other sentient, living beings is our responsibility and a mark of our place among all of creation. We call for an intelligent, compassionate approach to the treatment of animals.

We reject the belief that our species is the center of creation, and that other life forms exist only for our use and enjoyment. Our species does not have the right to exploit and inflict violence on other creatures simply because we have the desire and power to do so. Our ethic upholds not only the value of biological diversity and the integrity and continuity of species, but also the value of individual lives and the interest of individual animals.

The Green Party advocates humane treatment of animals with the following policies:

1. Redirect the funds that are disbursed annually by the National Institutes of Health away from animal experiments and more towards direct health care, preventive medicine, and biomedical research using non-animal procedures such as clinical, epidemiological, and cell culture research.

2. Phase out the use of animals for consumer product testing, tobacco and alcohol testing, psychological testing, classroom demonstrations and dissections, weapons development and other military programs.

3. Mandate clear labeling of products to tell whether or not they have been tested on animals and if they contain any animal products or by-products.

4. Establish procedures to develop greater public scrutiny of all animal research. These should include the welfare of laboratory animals, and a halt to wasteful public funding of unnecessary research such as duplicative experiments.

5. End the abuse of animals, including farm animals, and strengthen our enforcement of existing laws.

6. Ban the use of goods produced from exotic or endangered animals.

7. Prohibit large scale commercial breeding facilities, such as "puppy mills," because of the massive suffering, overpopulation, and ill health such facilities produce.

8. Subsidize spay and neuter clinics to combat the ever-worsening pet overpopulation problem that results in the killing of millions of animals every year. Where unwanted companion animals are being killed in shelters, we advocate mandatory spay and neuter laws.

9. Ban the exploitation of animals in violent entertainment and sports.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Risks. Chapter 21

The Risks of Empathy, a Novella

Chapter 21

The moon was a mere sliver when it was visible at all. The clouds had been building for two days. It was darker than most nights in the western desert and darker than every night in the city. Richard Selling was sitting in the back seat of an armored black limousine. Under the big car's sumptuous body was an overland chassis and high traction system designed by his own engineers. The car was his mobile command post and was in constant highly encrypted communication with the lost satellite. Selling watched the news from around the world on the six screens mounted in the passenger compartment.

A silent black helicopter swooped in out of the east and landed near the car. It's engines shut down almost immediately. A few pinpoints of light were the only sign that a group of people had gone to meet those within. In a few moments a small swarm of lights organized themselves and moved toward the limousine. Selling's driver opened the door and two people climbed in with him.

"Mrs. Adams, Mr. President, it's an honor."


Secretary of State Rebecca McGuire had negotiated an uneasy truce with Attorney General Samuel B. Wilkins. They had their ad hoc cabinet gathered in the oval office. The Joint Chiefs were on board as well as the FBI, CIA, and NSI directors. Three civilians had been pressed into service, but had come along quite willingly. These were Will Purdue, Ralph Hormel, and Freddie MacDonald, all heirs to and CEOs of massive meat producing conglomerates. Their predecessors would have been beaming if they could have seen the high level of officials they had been invited to advise.

McGuire was the presumptive leader and final arbiter, but Wilkins was supported by a significant minority of those present. Wilkins was speaking: "The Selling TEs continue to be bootlegged across the country. Broadcasts are being beamed to them through an encrypted signal from a source that we have been unable to identify. It must be coming from his ranch. It's time for a direct frontal assault."

Hormel was corpulent and pale. He had strikingly thick dark red lips. He spoke with a New England accent so thick that he was sometimes difficult to understand. "Ah heah that Adams is with Selling."

Wilkins snapped back, "That's just a damn rumor! He was assassinated. We have the video for crying out loud."

The three meat boys were puffed up mightily by their new roles and all of them felt a need to offer their advice. Purdue said, "I've heard that rumor too." And MacDonald added, "I advise caution."

McGuire stood up from behind the Presidential desk and looked around the room. The CIA chief and the Joint Chiefs were unsurprised by her announcement. "Gentleman, we can only assume that terrorists are at the heart of the present crisis and it is possible that they are operating out of the Selling stronghold. I have ordered the Joint Chiefs to mount a surgical strike including elements of all the military branches. We should have answers within the next 48 hours."

Wilkins recognized his weakened position and jumped squarely on the wagon. His supporters were right behind. "Excellent, excellent, Madam Secretary."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

PETA exposes a bit of cruelty at UW-Madison

Note: As I warned earlier, the Yin lab website is no longer accessible to the public. Just as the university blocked informed critics from posting on its Facebook page, it has now censored any public inspection of the Yin lab's website. Funny, in a sad anti-democracy anti-education sort of way.]

Normal people will find the video above a little disturbing.... I don't know the date of the photos, but I'm certain that they come from the Yin lab. Some years ago I stumbled across the Yin Lab webpage and snagged these photos (they seem like a happy crew.)

That's Tom Yin in front. The photos were part of a spread on the construction of the lab's new (at the time) sound proof chamber for conducting its experiments on cats. It's mentioned in many of Yin's papers; the tall fellow in the back is his main collaborator -- Daniel J. Tollin, Associate Scientist. Ph.D., 1998, University of Oxford.

Here are a couple of links to Yin's info at the university. (It might disappear anytime now.)

Check out this video as well before its gone too. It's from the Yin lab. It's much less forthcoming than the PETA video. In the Yin video, it appears that the cat's head is fixed in place.

As I mentioned above, Yin's main collaborator is Danial J. Tollin, seen here pretending to be a cat before he digs into her brain and ears:

Here's a picture of Tollin's house he kindly added to his university webpage. Proving once again the vivisectors' humility and the austerity and slave wages they endure in their efforts to save humanity:

Here's the main PETA page on this. (They don't mention Yin or Tollin by name; it's my understanding that they can't mention who the researchers are. I'm not similarly constrained.)

Here's the Wisconsin State Journal article -- no photos, no link to PETA's photos. Now that's good reporting!

Here are some links to some of his published papers. Check out the Materials and Methods sections.

Short-latency, goal-directed movements of the pinnae to sounds that produce auditory spatial illusions. Tollin DJ, McClaine EM, Yin TC. J Neurophysiol. 2010:

Three adult female cats were behaviorally trained to localize sound sources using operant conditioning procedures and food reward. Each cat was surgically fitted with a head post and eye and pinna coils made of fine wire (Cooner Wire, Chatsworth, CA). A detailed description of the surgical and behavioral procedures are given in Populin and Yin (1998a). The magnetic search coil technique was used to monitor eye and pinna position (Fuchs and Robinson 1966) by implanting eye coils around the eye ball and pinna coils subcutaneously behind the pinna as described earlier (Populin and Yin 1998b; Tollin et al. 2009). The eye coils were 18 to 19 mm in diameter, and the pinna coils were 10 mm in diameter. The head was restrained by a head post in these experiments. All procedures used were approved by the University of Wisconsin Animal Use and Care Committee [this is misleading since there are more than one -- guess it's best not to be too specific.] and also complied with the National Institutes of Health [miserably weak] guidelines for animal use.

Cats were food deprived 5–6 d/wk once training began. Body weight was monitored daily and maintained within 15% of pre-experimental weight. Water was provided ad libitum, and the animals were fed without restriction on nontesting days. Once accustomed to the head restraint, cats were trained to make saccades to locations of visual and acoustic stimuli in a dark, anechoic chamber.
Sound-localization performance in the cat: the effect of restraining the head. Tollin DJ, Populin LC, Moore JM, Ruhland JL, Yin TC. Journal of Neurophysiology 2005.

Psychophysical investigation of an auditory spatial illusion in cats: the precedence effect. Tollin DJ, Yin TC. J Neurophysiol. 2003: "Five adult female cats chosen for their friendliness and clean middle ears were used in these experiments."

Here's the university's tepid response to all this: Statement regarding sound localization research at UW-Madison.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The LIFE Nature Library. The Primates (1965)

My parents indulged my fascination with the natural world. One of the ways they did so was to subscribe to various magazines like National Geographic and book series like the Time-Life Nature Library. Our house was filled with books, which goes a long way in explaining the size of my own library -- now scattered between two states.

One of the perennial excuses used by vivisectors to defend the horrible things they do to animals and their dismal nearly nonexistent success at improving patient care is to say that the benefits of what is being done to an animal today won't be seen for a couple of decades; that's how science works after all.

It's a convenient argument that gets them off the hook for the horrible things they are doing right now. It's also mostly gibberish with little substance to support it. People who have looked back in time and tried to test their claim have not been able to find much supporting evidence. See for instance the studies listed under Human healthcare at

Below is a chapter from the book pictured above. The pages can be clicked on to provide a larger version that I hope are readable. If this doesn't work for you, here's a .pdf of the chapter. Of interest here are the various claims that are made. The clearest example of pie-in-the-sky that never panned out is on page 161: "Today the most significant research is in the field of transplants, to the end that defective human kidneys and hearts may eventually be replaced by healthy organs from apes and monkeys."

In fact, pages 161 and 162 are a telling tableau of just how much gibberish comes out of the labs.

Risks. Chapter 20

The Risks of Empathy, a Novella

Chapter 20

Harry was on his knees with the side of his head down flat on the floor; he was looking under a pallet stacked with bags of cracked corn. He was talking to a small brown mouse. "Come on now. Get out of there. I need to move this corn into the barn."

He looked up and over his shoulder at Karen and said, "Hand me that rake behind the forklift seat."

She did but said, "Be careful Harry."

Harry used the handle to reach under the pallet and gently nudge the mouse. It ran out and under the next pallet. Harry smiled and got up. "That's about the tenth time I've flushed him. I think he is learning not to be too worried about me."

Karen sat down on one of the forklift's two work-polished tines and breathed a deep sigh.

"What was that for?" asked Harry. "You didn't think I was going to hurt the little guy did you?"

"Of course not. It's just that I've been thinking more about this whole situation. Mr. Selling says we might actually have to fight a real war. I just don't get it. What's wrong with people Harry? Why can't they see the truth? Why don't they care?"

Harry walked around and sat down on the other silver tine. He looked at Karen, seemed to think for a moment, and answered her sigh with one of his own. "Well. Do you want to hear my opinion on the subject?"

"Yes, of course."

"I think that there are four kinds of people in the world. There're those who see immediately that animals are people; I don't mean they're human of course, but some people seem to notice immediately that there's someone looking back at them when they look into a dog's or a cow's eyes. But people like that, people who are sensitive or open enough to see this on their own, well, they're rare. I doubt that many of the people around here are like that. Most of the people around here are in the second group.

"The second kind of person is someone who is shocked that they have been missing something that seems obvious once it's pointed out to them. Or, in this case, it's the kind of person who really is kind and has always been kind and at least a little charitable. These are people like you and me. Once we watched the TEs we realized that we'd just been wrong or had missed the fact that a dog really is a sort of a person. I think these are the kind of a people around here mostly. I think that most people are like this. We are shocked at first because we didn't really imagine that an animal was something very different from anything else we owned or ate like a shoe or a carrot.

"The third kind of person is someone who watches a TE and gets a little shock but is either too stupid or selfish or too something to care. I guess that these are the kind of people who never did really care too much about other people either. So when they learned that a horse was another person, they just said 'so what?'

"That's what I think."

"But you said you think that there are four kinds of people," said Karen.

"Yeah, I guess I did. The fourth group scares me so much that I don't like to think too much about them. Those are the people who didn't learn anything they didn't already know when they watched an animal TE."

"Like the first group?" asked Karen.

"Sort of," answered Harry. "But these people have never been willing to stop hurting or killing animals, even though they know that the animals are a lot like themselves. These are the scientists who have shocked dogs and monkeys so often that the animals have gone insane. These are the people who catch a child and hurt them just because they know how frightened they can make them. These are the people who grin at bullfights and rodeos, who like watching dogs fighting and dogs peeing on themselves in fear. These are the people who devise experiments to frighten baby animals. These are the people who make me worry that evil is very real and not just a name we use for describing coincidentally bad things.

"If there's a war for the animals, you can be sure that these people will be the ones who will be killing simply for the fun of it."

Karen stared at Harry for a while then looked up as a flock of birds wheeled free in the sky. A single tear coursed slowly down her cheek.


The assassination was the big news, of course. On every screen, in every home, in every bar, the images were the same. The President and the Vice President were each giving a speech to commemorate the first fifty years of the American Lunar Colony. Critics were quick to point out that fifteen scientists barely counted as a colony, but the media and the propagandists said otherwise, so it was a colony. The President and the Vice President rarely appeared together in public due to security concerns, but the party wogs had been worried about the upcoming elections and the chance for a pure flag-waving spectacle was irresistible to them.

Three shots could be heard on the recording. The President appeared to be the first one hit and he went down - quickly covered by a pile of secret service agents. The Vice President provided a more spectacular image when his head exploded in an eruption of blood and pieces of, well, his head. The third shot seems to have missed altogether.

Rita was watching the news along with half a dozen others at the bar in Jim's Lounge. Secretary of State Rebecca McGuire was speaking:

"This was a cowardly act that strikes at the very roots of our democracy. I am sorry to say that we have lost two of our finest Americans today. But their deaths will not be in vain.

"Our intelligence agencies tell us that the assassins, and I can now tell you that there were four, have been captured. Our interrogation proves that they are part of a larger plot of revolution against our republic.

"These cowards are part of the same group that has been involved in the growing terrorism we are all too familiar with today.

"But I am committed to seeing our nation continue as a world leader in trade and commerce. Acts of terror, such as the recent attacks on so many of our finest institutions - our ranches, our meat packing plants, our biomedical laboratories, and now on the Presidency itself - will not stand unchallenged.

"In the interests of democracy and the American way of life I am left with no choice but to declare a state of martial law. This will be temporary and is needed only until the radical elements - that have acted with such vile contempt of our hallowed traditions - are brought to justice.

"You have my word that we will see our way through these dark times and emerge with renewed vigor and pride in this great country."

A newscaster then came on the screen and began announcing the local rules that were being put in place in support of the new War on Terrorism.

Rita spat on the floor.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Risks. Chapter 19

The Risks of Empathy, a Novella

Chapter 19

It was almost as much fun as the real Selling TEs, and it was definitely more exciting. Rita crouched behind the dumpster in dark damp alley. She had a large purse with her that had a distinct petroleum aroma. One of her friends from the bar was crouched next to her. He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a small brown flask. "Here."

Rita took the flask and indulged in a small sip. She usually tried to stay sober and sharp before a raid, but she didn't want to seem rude. "Let's go," she said.

Rita led the way up to the rear of the building and peeped in through the grime-clouded window. Her partner crowded next to her and together they took in the scene. Three people were hard at work cutting up chicken carcasses. Two barrels of plucked chickens stood in the center of the room and a pile of cut and wrapped pieces was growing on a cart nearby. As a chicken was cut up, wrapped in white paper, and tossed onto the cart, the worker grabbed another from the barrel and began dismembering it.

Rita whispered to her partner, "They keep moving these places, and we keep finding them." Rita reached into her bag and took out a wine bottle fitted with a cloth stopper.

"Take the hammer. When I say go, smash the window and then run like hell. I'll meet you back at the bar in about an hour. Don't lose the hammer." Rita reached into her pocket, pulled out her cigarette lighter, and lit the Molotov cocktail. "Go!"


...being Earnie being Karen being Earnie being Karen ....

"Karen." Someone was shaking her shoulder and talking to her. She recognized Stan and was wholly back.

"Wow. That was weird as shit. How long were we connected?"

"About three hours. I thought it best to let you see just how impossible it is to break the loop."

When the connection had been established Karen's first fleeting impression had been of being Earnie followed almost immediately with the experience of him realizing he was her realizing she was him. It was like being in a hall of mirrors and seeing one's reflection disappear into infinity. There was nothing to get hold of, no thought had an end because it reverberated back and forth, no thought could be begun because none could finish. Subjectively, there had been no passage of time, just endless re-realizations that she was him realizing that he was her.

"It's a really hard problem," said Earnie. "Much harder than anything we've yet had to deal with. If the potential wasn't so high we might just can the whole damn thing."

"Have you tried it with more than just two people?" asked Karen.

"Like a ménage à trois," grinned Earnie. "No, but I don't see how it could hurt. What do you think Stan?"


The entire ranch was aware that things had taken a decidedly difficult turn. The declared martial law was clear on a number of points. First, and foremost, anyone caught with a Selling TE was to be held and tried as a spy and terrorist. The government had fabricated some nonsense about the TEs being used by terrorist cells to communicate with each other. Second, Richard Selling had been named as the likely head of the revolutionary forces and had been moved to the top of the CIA's and the FBI's Most Wanted Lists. Third, anyone caught interfering with any animal based concern - including ranching, fur farming, biomedical research, rodeos, pet stores, restaurants serving meat, stores selling meat, trucks hauling animals to slaughter, packing houses, zoos, aquariums, and any other animal enterprise not specifically named - were to be held as a spy and tried as a terrorist.

Stan and Earnie were as unsettled as the rest of the ranch and told Karen to take a day or two off. Everyone seemed to want to get their hands dirty with the care of the animals. Somehow, taking care of their basic needs seemed to help settle people's anxiety. They all felt there was a storm just over the horizon and coming their way.