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Primate Research at Oxford

Painful and Pointless

Well-known primate behaviourist Dr. Jane Goodall has urged science ‘to direct its collectively awesome intellect into different pathways in its search to alleviate human suffering’

A shocking dossier published by Animal Aid has revealed the reality of primate experiments in Britain today. Animal Aid have kindly allowed SPEAK to publish examples of the research they have undertaken into the most meaningless, horrific and barbaric primate experiments that have taken place recently at Oxford University. If nothing else, it clearly illustrates the need to stop Oxford University from abusing even greater numbers of animals if the new lab is completed and highlights just why SPEAK will never stop its campaign against the university until animal abuse is halted once and for all.

Most of the experiments are clearly being done just to satisfy the morbid curiosity of people that have the audacity to call themselves scientists. At SPEAK we don’t believe that vivisectors should be seen as belonging to the scientific community, they are nothing more than charlatans – people masquerading as scientists – fraudsters if you like, who have beguiled people into believing that what they do is a “necessary evil”; men and women who have contributed nothing to furthering human knowledge; if anything people that are responsible for holding up medical progress.

In projects lasting months and even years, groups of monkeys were deliberately brain-damaged with chemicals and then set a battery of tests. Most of the experiments ended with the monkeys being killed and various body parts analysed. But prior to death, the animals in our highlighted experiments suffered symptoms which included seizures, vomiting, diarrhoea, tremors and uncontrollable body movements.

Examples of experiments taking place at Oxford University are as follows:

Brain damage in monkeys increases their fear of toy snakes

A team of researchers in the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University investigated the effects of brain damage on the social behaviour of nine macaque monkeys.

The monkeys were divided into three groups – each having different parts of their brains surgically damaged. Once the animals had regained consciousness, they were studied to see how they responded to various threatening situations. This included being exposed to rubber snakes and the stares of unfamiliar human faces.

Similar previous experiments conducted by the same researchers had shown that the greater the brain damage, the less sociable the monkeys became with one another. The team did not reveal the fate of the monkeys after the experiment. In conclusion, the researchers made a tacit admission about the lack of relevance of their own research. They stated that the equivalent tests given to human subjects (for which noninvasive scanning equipment was used) were considerably more complex than those possible in monkeys.

Rudebeck M, Buckley MJ, Walton ME, Rushworth MFS.
Science 2006; 313:1310-1312. ‘A role for the macaque anterior cingulate gyrus in social valuation.

Oxford, Cambridge and Newcastle: Brain-damaged monkeys forced to watch fish

Scientists from the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Newcastle and the University of Western Ontario (Canada) teamed up to conduct a long-term study of brain behaviour in two male macaque monkeys. Both monkeys underwent brain surgery to implant electrodes, which recorded brain activity. The implant was held in place by stainless steel screws, a head bolt and dental cement.

The monkeys were seated in a sound-proof room, in a purpose-built ‘primate chair’ – an apparatus that restricts body movement. During each experimental session, the restrained monkey was exposed to a stream of pictures. His task was to hold his stare until he saw a fish. All of the experimental brain and eye recordings were computer-controlled, as was the delivery of a juice reward. An incorrect stare or no response on the part of the monkeys resulted in no reward being given. In all, the monkeys underwent 67 experimental sessions. What happened to them after the sessions was unrecorded.

Everling S, Tinsley CJ, Gaffan D, Duncan J.
European Journal of Neuroscience 2006; 23:2197-2214. ‘Selective representation of task-relevant objects and locations in the monkey prefrontal cortex.’

Researchers debilitate 16-year old monkey

A team of Oxford University researchers experimented on a 16-year old macaque as part of an ongoing study of movement disorders associated with Parkinson’s disease.

The ageing monkey had surgery to implant a deep brain electrode. It was connected to a pacemaker, which could be turned on and off by remote control. In subsequent experiments, the animal was incapacitated by the administration of MPTP – a chemical that damages the brain and severely impairs control of body movements. The researchers then experimented with a combination of standard drug treatment (L-DOPA) with and without activating the pacemaker.

It was found that the two treatments for Parkinson’s (L-DOPA and electrical stimulation via the deep brain electrode) together gave the best overall result. A reading of equivalent studies in human patients suggests that this information has been known since at least 1999. The number of previous experiments that this 16-year old monkey had undergone and what happened to him following this debilitating study remains undeclared. Jenkinson N, Nandi D, Oram R, Stein J, Aziz T. Neuroreport 2006; (17) 6: 639-641. ‘Pedunculopontine nucleus electric stimulation alleviates akinesia independently of dopaminergic mechanisms.’

Funded by the Medical Research Council, the Templeton Foundation and the Charles Wolfson Charitable Foundation

Monkeys brain-damaged to make them indecisive

A team of scientists at Oxford University investigated decisionmaking behaviour in a group of nine adult macaque monkeys. Three of the monkeys underwent surgery during which deliberate damage was inflicted on an area in the brain thought to be important in decision-making.

All nine macaques were coerced into undertaking various reward-guided tasks. They were trained to manipulate a joystick for 150 trials per day, repeated for five consecutive days. The animals were required to get a correct result 25 times in succession, after which the frustration level was increased, as the experimenters demanded a different ‘correct’ answer.

Based on a comparison between normal and brain-damaged monkeys, the research team concluded that the damaged brain area is ‘essential for learning the value of actions’.

Kennerley SW, Walton ME, Behrens TEJ, Buckley MJ, Rushworth MFS.
Nature Neuroscience 2006; 9:940-947. ‘Optimal decision making and the anterior cingulate cortex.’

Funded by the Medical Research Council, the Clarendon Foundation, the Wellcome Trust and the Royal Society.

Brain damaged monkeys set thousands of tests.

Six macaque monkeys at Oxford University were placed in small, individual cages in front of a computer screen, where they had to identify blue squares among green ones (or vice versa) several thousand times. In return, they received small food rewards. Then four of the six had different parts of the visual cortex of their brains removed and were subsequently re-tested several thousand more times. A key purpose of this experiment was to confirm the role played by particular parts of the brain in a phenomenon known as ‘priming’. This is where an advantage is conferred on a subject when undertaking subsequent repetitions of a previously learned response. This information was already known from studies in humans. The researchers here could clearly have obtained these results from scanning human brains engaged in visual tasks. It is difficult to imagine benefits from this experiment significant enough to justify the enormous suffering of the animals involved.

Funded by the Medical Research Council

‘Normal discrimination performance accompanied by priming deficits in monkeys with V4 or TEO lesions’; V Walsh et al; NeuroReport 2000 Vol 11, Issue 7, p1459-62

It seems that Dr Walsh also does non-animal experiments

Brain damage tests last nine years.

As part of a long-term study at Oxford University involving at least 20 monkeys, three macaques had part of their brains’ visual cortex removed and were then tested at various times on a variety of visual tasks. The tests lasted for as long as nine years, by which time the three monkeys had died. As recognised from previous such research, the Oxford team found that the extent of visual damage varies even amongst monkeys with a similar level of deliberately inflicted brain damage. This is because the size of key parts of the brain are different in individual monkeys and different again in humans. Age when the surgical damage is inflicted and length of post-operative survival time also have an impact on the extent of the visual damage found. The results posed many more questions than answers but the researchers believed their experiments confirmed what had been already concluded from experiments by other research teams: namely, that the visual damage being studied in these surgically mutilated monkeys probably arose from differences in the number of cells in the different regions of the brain.

Human head injury victims are, sadly, all too numerous, and would clearly be the ideal research subjects to speed progress into possible treatments for their own condition. Not only may non-invasive investigation of such patients yield vital clues and enable them to help themselves and others in their condition, but countless primates could be spared years of suffering and misery.

Funded by the Medical Research Council.

‘Transneuronal retrograde degeneration of retinal ganglion cells following restricted lesions of striate cortex in the monkey’; H Johnson and A Cowey; Experimental Brain Research 2000 Vol 132, Issue 2, p269-75

Monkeys and brain damage

Monkeys were subjected to brain damage to assess the effect on emotion and motivation. Brain damage was produced either by the use of a toxic chemical or by surgical removal of parts of the cortex. Following the production of injuries to different areas of the brain, the monkeys behaviour was assessed. In a “food-preference test”, monkeys were offered meat, which normal monkeys would usually avoid. (This test was used since earlier experiments had shown that brain damaged monkeys would eat meat.) Another test investigated the brain damaged animals reaction to stress and frustration. According to the scientists, “A frustration task was designed in which food was visible but unavailable to the monkey.” The experiments showed that in some cases, brain damage led to more violent and aggressive behaviour.

Funding: C. E. Stern funded in part by an O.R.S. award as partial fulfilment of a D. Phil degree at Oxford.

(Ref.: C. E. Stern & R. E. Passingham, Behavioural Brain Research, 1996, vol. 75,179-193).

Nerve cell experiments in monkeys

In one report electrodes were inserted into monkeys’ brains to measure how nerve cells respond to different tastes. Three macaques were used. The scientists justify their experiments by claiming they are needed “to understand how appetite and food intake are controlled by the brain, and disorders in appetite and feeding…”

Funding: MRC and the International Glutamate Technical Committee.i

(Ref.: E. T. Rolls et al, Physiology & Behaviour, 1996, vol. 59, 991-1000).

In another, similar experiment (in collaboration with the University of Newcastle), the response of nerve cells in the brain to different faces was recorded.

Funding: National Science Foundation, MRC and others.

(Ref.: L. F. Abbott et al, Cerebral Cortex, 1996, vol. 6, 498-505).