Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Expert evidence for German lab monkey case

Posted: 17 July 2009. Updated: 17 July 2009


Authorities in Bremen initially stopped brain experiments on macaque monkeys at Bremen University for being “ethically unjustified” because “they address long-term scientific questions rather than help develop specific medical therapies.”

Pictured: The same level of data can be obtained from modern systems, such as MEG scanners, as from experiments on monkeys.

City authorities intended to carry through a non-binding resolution declaring a phase out of primate experiments, and rejected the application by researcher Professor Kreiter, to extend his project licence in November 2008. His university vowed to fight the decision in court.

The experiments involve recording single neurone activity in monkeys’ brains while they perform tasks. Kreiter’s previous work has involved implanting electrodes in monkeys’ brains and gold rings into their eyes, to measure their gaze. Kreiter and his team also conducted visual attention research in humans to try and confirm the findings in monkeys! Researchers claim that such experiments are ‘necessary’ because they are not possible in animals with less developed brains or with non-invasive brain-imaging methods.

LDF grant holder Professor Furlong of Aston University, has been able to provide expert commentary on the feasibility of using detailed brain images of human volunteers and patients instead of cruel monkey experiments. In one study, Prof. Furlong and his team compared their data from measuring human electrical brain activity, with data obtained by experimenters using electrodes in restrained monkeys. The same level of data could be obtained. Clearly the human data is also directly relevant to patients. Although Aston’s neuroimaging centre does not work at the single neurone level, it examines neuronal clusters or small networks thus enabling the same conclusion to be reached regarding cognitive function. This also avoids the problem of implanting an electrode in an animal and hoping it hits the right spot.

Since this level of human behavioural study and neuro-imaging is possible, it would be hoped that Bremen University would switch to humane methods instead of invasive research in animals. Sadly, like the animal experimenters across Europe fighting to prevent the phase out of primate tests, the Bremen researchers are unwilling to give up their monkey experiments. In December 2008 Kreiter received a temporary order to extend his licence, so his research continues. The case is expected to be heard in 2009.

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