4th April 2016
Monkey brain experiments flawed and misleading
New science paper finds neuroscience tests on monkeys are not essential to medical progress
Two of our scientists have today published a paper which shows that experiments on monkeys’ brains are flawed, misleading and unnecessary.
Dr Jarrod Bailey and Dr Katy Taylor reviewed claims by researchers that cruel tests on monkeys are vital in finding cures for human diseases - and found that they are actually of only speculative value to humans.
Due to the many important differences between monkeys and humans in brain structure and function, data collected from monkeys used in neuroscience research are misleading and of poor relevance to people.
They also found that researchers who use monkeys in neuroscience experiments are incorrectly stating that these experiments are crucial to medical breakthroughs. These include the development of brain scanning technology (fMRI) and deep brain stimulation in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
We believe the significance of results from ethical neuroscience research in humans is also being underestimated by researchers to inflate the importance of tests on monkeys.
Around 6,000 nonhuman primates are used in experiments in Europe and the UK every year. Some of these monkeys are used in neuroscience research, which inflicts substantial suffering on the animals.
In 2014 we released findings from our investigation at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Germany. We found the appalling suffering of monkeys used in neuroscience research, where macaque monkeys were forced to:
- suffer in highly invasive brain surgery to implant recording devices in their skulls
- sit totally immobilised by their heads for hours at a time in front of computer screens
- go without water, sometimes for days, so they would ‘cooperate’ for rewards of juice
The suffering the monkeys endured at the laboratory was downplayed by the researchers and justified via claims of substantial human benefit. Jarrod and Katy’s new paper shows these claims are false.
Dr Jarrod Bailey, Senior Research Scientist at Cruelty Free International, said: “The increasing power of humane and human-specific testing methods renders monkey neuroscience research redundant. Both the monkeys used in these cruel experiments and the people waiting for science to deliver better treatments for neurological diseases, will benefit from a move towards ethically and scientifically superior alternative methods of research.”