|Macaque in neurology experiment, above and top. Credit:
Jan Creamer / National Anti-Vivisection Society
|"Outside of Cambridge University, scientists
are committed to promoting the UK as a centre of excellence without
the use of animals"
|Macaque. Credit: Jan Creamer / National Anti-Vivisection
|"The mistake the minister makes is the assumption
that such a leading-edge centre must use animals"
|"It would be better for researchers to apply
scanning techniques to human patients and volunteers... [they] would
then be learning about humans and not monkeys"
|Macaque in neurology experiment. Credit: Jan Creamer
/ National Anti-Vivisection Society
|"One of the major causes of death in the western
world is from adverse reactions to drugs despite that all pharmaceuticals
have been tested on animals"
|"Drugs which may appear to cure a disease...
in laboratory animals are not guaranteed to do the same for people"
|Macaque. Credit: Jan Creamer / National Anti-Vivisection
|"No animal species reacts to behaviour altering
drugs in the same way as a human being would"
|"Substantial evidence in the scientific and medical
literature demonstrates that neurology research can progress without
the use of animals"
|Macaque. Credit: Jan Creamer / National Anti-Vivisection
|"Alternative techniques, relevant to humans,
are the future"
Proposed Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge
NAVS response to the comments of Lord Sainsbury, minister
at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), attempting to overturn
refusal of planning permission.
Ignoring the concerns and protests of local people, Lord Sainsbury,
minister at the DTI, has thrown the Government's weight behind the University's
appeal against refusal of planning permission.
Lord Sainsbury states that his department would regard the proposed primate
laboratory as "nationally important".
The minister asserts that with our "world class
neuroscience" such a centre would "consolidate
the UK's position as a global leader", and that the centre
brings together scientists to work in an inter-disciplinary environment
using state-of-the-art facilities. Lord Sainsbury feels that such centres
must be nurtured so that they can enjoy the modern facilities required
for leading-edge research.
All very laudable objectives which everyone can support. After all, we
all have a stake in good medical research. The mistake the minister makes
is the assumption that such a leading-edge centre must use animals. Furthermore,
the vast sums of money spent on such research must go to sophisticated,
well thought out projects which are relevant to our own species.
The UK will continue to have world-class neuroscience without the setting
up of a centre to conduct work on non-human primates, or any other non-human
mammalian species. Ground-breaking, innovative neurological research is
being conducted in the UK without the use of animals, such as at the Neurosciences
Research Institute at Aston University (see below).
Experience has shown that both behavioural neuroscience and other neurological
experiments on animals are fundamentally flawed due to species differences
Aston University: World class research, based on study of humans
Outside of Cambridge University, scientists are committed to promoting
the UK as a centre of excellence without the use of animals. The Neurosciences
Research Institute at Aston University is a prime example of such foresight,
with its plans for a new 'Academy of Life Sciences' to open in April 2004.
The £8 million Academy will provide the opportunity for innovative
cross-disciplinary work by the integration of clinically related research
in neuroscience. It will include research groups working on behavioural
and cognitive sciences, neuroimaging, vision, ophthalmic and physiology
The claims of the animal researchers who want the centre
In his support for attempts to overturn the refusal of planning permission,
Lord Sainsbury quotes researchers from the field of animal neuroscience,
who claim that the centre: "promises internationally
competitive science" and is "very
likely advance our knowledge significantly in the field of central nervous
control of behaviour". It is also claimed by those in the
industry that "Medical research, pharmaceutical
research, and our knowledge of the brain/ mind, all will benefit enormously
from this initiative".
But is this really the case? Let's look at the facts:
New techniques avoid problems of species differences:
Knowledge in the field of central nervous system control of human behaviour
is constantly increasing, due to rapidly advancing, innovative technology
in the field of neurology research for the study of human volunteers (see
The physiological (the functional reactions in the body) response of an
animal to a painful or distressing stimulus varies not only between species
but between individuals and is determined by the genetic makeup of an
Non-human primates, despite their evolutionary closeness to us, are distinct
from us in the way they express genes in the brain ("expression"
of a gene is the activity or product that the gene causes to occur in
the body). There are even big differences in gene expression between humans
and chimps, although gene expression between chimps and other non-human
primates is similar (2).
Another hurdle when using animals to model human nerve diseases (or any
other disease for that matter) that has not been overcome is that the
human form of the disease can never be completely replicated in an animal.
Animal models of the neurodegenerative disease Alzheimer's, for example,
do not develop the characteristic 'neurofibrillary tangles' or show significant
nervous system degeneration (3).
One of the major causes of death in the western world is from adverse
reactions to drugs despite that all pharmaceuticals have been tested on
animals for safety and efficacy before entering the market.
An anti-Parkinson's disease drug, tolcapone (Tasmar) was withdrawn from
the market in 1998 for being linked to deaths from liver disease (4).
Similarly, the antidepressant Seroxat was also linked to liver damage,
in 1997 (5). The safety of donepazil
for Alzheimer's came under review in 1999 resulting in updating of product
information (6), and clinical trials
of a potential Alzheimer's vaccine were suspended this year when participating
patients began experiencing side-effects to the nervous system (7,8).
The vaccine had been hailed as "revolutionary
...following encouraging tests on animals" (9).
Drugs which may appear to cure a disease which has been artificially
induced in laboratory animals are not guaranteed to do the same for people.
Only in humans can the relationship of subjective and discriminative drug
effects be assessed at the same time (10).
The therapeutic effects of the appetite suppressant fenfluramine for autism
and its potential to reduce suicidal tendencies, for example, were discovered
in people and could not have been predicted in animal experiments (11).
Knowledge of the brain/mind
Little, if anything, can be gained by studying the brains/minds of non-human
animals. The behavioural response of an animal to a painful or distressing
stimulus varies not only between species but between individuals (1).
The processes involved in behavioural responses in humans is known to
be more complex than in other species (12),
and no animal species reacts to behaviour altering drugs in the same way
as a human being would (13). For example
caffeine, which can induce panic attacks in people, has conflicting results
in animal models of anxiety (14).
As for the human 'feeling state', there is no parallel that can be drawn
from animals, as they cannot tell us how they feel. Depression, for example,
is a complex human reaction (15) and
there is no animal that can model the symptoms of schizophrenia (16).
Currently Cambridge neuroscientists are working on common marmosets.
However, at the new £24 million centre for neuroscience proposed
by the University of Cambridge they would conduct research on macaques
as they believe marmosets do not make good models due to their small brains
Macaques as experimental models for human diseases
For two years an investigator from the NAVS Special Investigations Department
worked undercover as a laboratory technician inside two British research
institutions, one of which was the Institute of Neurology. Here, in the
Sobell Department of Neurophysiology, a researcher was using macaques
for a study of the nerve connections between the brain and muscles of
the hand. For the purpose of the experiments, the macaque skull was fitted
with a headpiece and recording/stimulating electrodes in various parts
of the brain. The intention was to study the effects of brain stimulation
on learned tasks and to this effect wires were connected from the headpiece
directly to selected muscles of the forelimbs. A dye was injected into
the parts of the brain studied so that the nerve connections can be traced
after the monkeys have been killed (18).
However, it is unlikely that progress will be made in the study of the
human brain by using laboratory animals. As researchers at two prestigious
institutions, the Salk Institute and the University of California wrote:
"What is known about the neuroanatomy of the human brain? Do we have
a human cortical map corresponding to that for the macaque? And what does
the human equivalent of the connectional map look like? The shameful answer
is that we do not have such detailed maps because, for obvious reasons,
most of the experimental methods used on the macaque brain cannot be used
on humans... For other cortical regions, such as the language areas, we
cannot use the macaque brain even as a rough guide as it probably lacks
comparable regions" (18).
Instead of studying brain function in macaques, it would be better for
researchers to apply scanning techniques to human patients and volunteers,
and to study human post-mortem specimens. Researchers would then be learning
about humans and not monkeys.
Parkinson's disease research
Parkinson's disease is unique to humans (19),
slowly progressing, whereas in the artificial lab disease 'model', using
the drug MPTP, the disease is rapid in its course. There are differences
in nerve degeneration and the transmission of nerve impulses in naturally-occurring
human Parkinson's disease and MPTP-induced Parkinson's disease in animals
(20). Also, there are major differences
at both the behavioural and neurochemical (nerve chemistry) levels between
marmosets and cynomolgus monkeys when administered MPTP, making it impossible
to predict with any certainty how results of macaque and marmoset experiments
can be applicable to humans (21).
One British researcher had been working on macaques to investigate treatment
for Parkinson's disease since 1997. He had been inducing neurodegenerative
symptoms of the disease in the macaques by giving them the MPTP and then
performing surgery on the animals as an approach to 'treatment'.
However, 6 months ago the Home Office put a freeze on his work, demanding
further justification for the research and imposing modifications to his
experimental procedures (17). In 1999
the government advisory body, the Animal Procedures Committee (APC), voiced
concerns about the use of macaques in MPTP-induced Parkinson's disease.
One reason was due to the differences in brain architecture between human
beings and macaques, raising doubts about the transferability of results.
Nevertheless, the APC decided to grant a project licence anyway (22).
There are differences between MPTP-induced Parkinson's in marmosets and
human Parkinson's patients - the absence of Lewy bodies (as seen in Parkinson's
patients) in marmosets (22).
Previously, the rather poor reason given by researchers for the use of
marmosets was their small size. Now, they are citing the difficulty being
that the animals' brains are too small (17).
Despite these drawbacks, an application relating to Parkinson's disease
involving several hundred marmosets was seen and approved by the Animal
Procedures Committee during 1999. The planned procedures were rated in
the 'substantial' severity category (22).
Parkinson's disease experiments on animals - non-animal
- In primate experiments where electrical activity of brain is recorded
after injection of drugs that affect brain function (MPTP), human patients
could be studied instead with scanning techniques. Patients in whom
Parkinson's disease has been induced with MPTP underwent brain scans
using high resolution PET and the drug fluorodopa (23).
- Surgical lesions in the brain, located by electrodes while the patient
is still conscious, are a normal, common procedure in the treatment
of Parkinson's and are known to be effective (24).
A potentially successful new treatment method involves deep brain electrical
- Behavioural changes in patients in whom corrective lesions for Parkinson's
disease have been made have been studied post-surgery by MRI scans of
their brains (27).
- Microelectrodes have been used in human patients for detection of
the areas where lesions need to be made in the brain, for recording
and stimulating. In this way, tremor and movement cells can be located
- The effect of patient's movement on the lesioned brain has been assessed
in human Parkinsonian patients (29).
Other primate neurology research
The following experiments carried out at three different institutions
provide further evidence of the futility of neurological research using
University of Cambridge
The level of dopamine, a chemical found in the brain, was studied in the
marmoset after destruction of an area of the brain with toxic chemicals,
in order to assess the relationship of dopamine to disorders such as schizophrenia.
Behaviour was studied as well as brain chemistry. When the monkeys had
learned to retrieve objects, they were injected with amphetamines to see
how this affected their performance. The study merely confirmed previous
findings and furthermore, the researchers already knew that this type
of brain damage affected behaviour (30).
An area of the brain was removed from Macaque monkeys so that their performance
of visual memory tasks could be compared with monkeys that had previously
had a different part of the brain removed, and with normal monkeys (31).
It would have been more logical to study amnesic, brain-damaged patients
rather than deliberately brain-damage monkeys.
In another experiment 32 lesions were made in the brains of 6 macaques
so that the researchers could compare how monkeys with multiple lesions
in their brains performed tasks, compared to those without lesions. In
a pilot study, one monkey's brain was so badly damaged he could hardly
move his arm but was still made to perform in 2000 trials of task training.
The results contradicted those obtained from human studies (32).
At the Institute of Neurology electric shocks were given to the spinal
nerves of 4 squirrel monkeys in order to compare nerve control of their
arm movements with that of cats and macaque monkeys. The skull was opened
and part of the spinal cord was deliberately damaged (33).
The animals were fully anaesthetised during surgery, but the drug used
for the remainder induces only light anaesthesia, has poor pain-relieving
properties and is not recommended for non-human primates (34,35).
The team had carried out this experiment on squirrel monkeys before, and
the transmission of nerve impulses from this area of the brain and spinal
cord has been studied by others, in people. The researchers stated: "We
recognise the dangers of making these comparisons both between laboratories
and between species".
Non-animal research in neurology
An editorial comment from a scientific journal in the early 1990s provides
an appropriate introduction to this section:
"Until the early 1970s, knowledge about the living human brain had
been derived mainly from surgical case studies. These were supplemented
with behavioural observations of lab animals, many of whose brains had
been physically altered through surgery. Today, sophisticated imaging
techniques have opened more efficient, revealing - and certainly less
bloody - avenues for neuroscience researchers. These techniques, formerly
recognised primarily for their utility in diagnostic procedures, allow
brain scientists to peek inside the skull non-invasively and with minimal
trauma to the subject" (36).
Humane Alternatives: Non-animal techniques better for humans and animals
Substantial evidence in the scientific and medical literature demonstrates
that neurology research can progress without the use of animals.
Human brain imaging
In recent decades a wealth of brain imaging techniques have been developed
to assist neurologists with the non-invasive study of human brains. These
- Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) tracks brain activity
by monitoring blood flow. This has allowed neuroscientists to understand
which areas of the brain are active during specific tasks (37).
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET) allows areas of the brain which
are active during a specific task, such as thinking or experiencing
pain, to be identified (38,39).
- Cortical Evoked Potentials (CEP) measures the electrical component
of electromagnetic brain pulses and Magnetoencephalography (MEG) measures
the magnetic component. In combination, CEP and MEG accurately identify
areas of the brain involved in processing information for a specific
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) applies magnetic pulses to
the brain which then stimulate or suppress activity. This has been used
to study visual attention, memory and recognition (37).
- Repetitive TMS (rTMS) creates a virtual lesion for neuroscientists
to experiment on just as they would by cutting the nerves in an animalís
brain to see the functional response. Thought processes have been investigated
using rTMS (37).
- A combination of TMS and fMRI is being used to probe changes occurring
in the brain associated with diseases such as schizophrenia (37).
- A US study has used brain imaging techniques to investigate the brains
of identical twins and fraternal pairs to understand how genetic factors
influence the volume of grey brain matter. By knowing which parts of
the brain are under genetic control researchers know where to look for
brain degeneration in diseases such as schizophrenia (40).
- Scientists supported by the Lord Dowding Fund have developed a new
imaging technique known as Synthetic Aperture Magnetometry (SAM). By
using measuring electrical and magnetic pulses SAM can identify the
region of the brain responsible for signals and their depth when triggered
by particular stimuli. SAM is currently being used to study the experience
of pain associated with irritable bowel syndrome and non-cardiac chest
Certain strains of Escherichia coli produce amyloid fibres similar
to those that accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer's and other degenerative
brain disorder patients. E coli is therefore used as a molecular model
to study amyloid formation during the design of drugs to treat or prevent
human amyloid diseases (42).
Brain cells which need dopamine to function and those that do not can
be isolated from human foetal brain tissue. Using this molecular model
a study was performed to understand why the degeneration of dopamine dependent
brain cells occurs in neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's
disease. A particular protein was identified as a causal factor in dopamine
dependent brain cell death (43).
Lord Dowding Fund has supported research using Parkinson and schizophrenia
patient volunteers to investigate visual abnormalities caused by the failure
of dopamine systems in the brain. The effectiveness of potential therapies
are assessed by observing the effect on the patient's vision (44).
In the United States, nuns are donating their brains after death for research.
This allows a unique insight into potential causes of Alzheimer's by studying
the brains of people who have led similar lives so that many epidemiological
variables are absent. It has already been discovered that the likelihood
of someone contracting Alzheimer's can be predicted from linguistic abilities
in their early twenties (45).
Alternative techniques, relevant to humans, are the future
Outside of Cambridge University, scientists are committed to promoting
the UK as a centre of excellence without the use of animals.
The Neurosciences Research Institute at Aston University is a prime example
of such foresight, with its plans for a new 'Academy of Life Sciences'
to open in April 2004. The £8 million Academy will provide the opportunity
for innovative cross-disciplinary work by the integration of clinically
related research in neuroscience. It will include research groups working
on behavioural and cognitive sciences, neuroimaging, vision, ophthalmic
and physiology optics.
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The Diaries of Despair exposé >>
Prepared by the National Anti-Vivisection Society, www.navs.org.uk,