The Use of Neurocomputational Models as Alternatives to Animal Models in the Development of Electrical Brain Stimulation Treatments
Recent publications call for more animal models to be used and more experiments to be performed, in order to better understand the mechanisms of neurodegenerative disorders, to improve human health, and to develop new brain stimulation treatments. In response to these calls, some limitations of the current animal models are examined by using Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) in Parkinson’s disease as an illustrative example. Without focusing on the arguments for or against animal experimentation, or on the history of DBS, the present paper argues that given recent technological and theoretical advances, the time has come to consider bioinspired computational modelling as a valid alternative to animal models, in order to design the next generation of human brain stimulation treatments. However, before computational neuroscience is fully integrated in the translational process and used as a substitute for animal models, several obstacles need to be overcome. These obstacles are examined in the context of institutional, financial, technological and behavioural lock-in. Recommendations include encouraging agreement to change long-term habitual practices, explaining what alternative models can achieve, considering economic stakes, simplifying administrative and regulatory constraints, and carefully examining possible conflicts of interest.