neuroscience

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Non-human Primates in Neuroscience Research: The Case Against its Scientific Necessity

Jarrod Bailey and Katy Taylor

Public opposition to non-human primate (NHP) experiments is significant, yet those who defend them cite minimal harm to NHPs and substantial human benefit. Here we review these claims of benefit, specifically in neuroscience, and show that: a) there is a default assumption of their human relevance and benefit, rather than robust evidence; b) their human relevance and essential contribution and necessity are wholly overstated; c) the contribution and capacity of non-animal investigative methods are greatly understated; and d) confounding issues, such as species differences and the effects of stress and anaesthesia, are usually overlooked. This is the case in NHP research generally, but here we specifically focus on the development and interpretation of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), deep brain stimulation (DBS), the understanding of neural oscillations and memory, and investigation of the neural control of movement and of vision/binocular rivalry. The increasing power of human-specific methods, including advances in fMRI and invasive techniques such as electrocorticography and single-unit recordings, is discussed. These methods serve to render NHP approaches redundant. We conclude that the defence of NHP use is groundless, and that neuroscience would be more relevant and successful for humans, if it were conducted with a direct human focus. We have confidence in opposing NHP neuroscience, both on scientific as well as on ethical grounds.

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The Use of Non-Human Primates in Biological and Medical Research: Evidence Submitted by FRAME to the Academy of Medical Sciences/Medical Research Council/Royal Society/Wellcome Trust Working Group

Nirmala Bhogal, Michelle Hudson, Michael Balls and Robert D. Combes

The Academy of Medical Sciences, the Medical Research Council, the Royal Society and the Wellcome Trust are undertaking a study into the use of non-human primates in biological and medical research. An independent working group of scientific experts, led by Sir David Weatherall, aims to produce a report summarising the findings of this study, early in 2006. The trends in primate research, and the nature and effects of recent and proposed changes in the global use of non-human primates in research, will be investigated. The associated ethical, welfare and regulatory issues, and the role and impact of the Three Rs principles of refinement, reduction and replacement will also be reviewed. As part of this study, a call for evidence was made. The evidence submitted by FRAME emphasised that the use of non-human primates for fundamental research or for regulatory testing still fails to take into account the fact that, although non-human primates are anatomically and physiologically similar to humans, they are not necessarily relevant models for studies on human disease or human physiology. FRAME continues to believe that we have a duty to ensure that these animals are not used without overwhelming evidence that they are the only suitable and elevant models for use in work of undeniable significance.
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Ethical Review of Projects Involving Non-human Primates Funded Under the European Union’s 7th Research Framework Programme

Ursula G. Sauer, Barry Phillips, Kirsty Reid, Véronique Schmit and Maggy Jennings

Internet searches were performed on projects involving non-human primates (‘primates’) funded under the European Union (EU) 7th Research Framework Programme (FP7), to determine how project proposals are assessed from an ethical point of view. Due to the incompleteness of the information publicly available, the types and severity of the experiments could not be determined with certainty, although in some projects the level of harm was considered to be ‘severe’. Information was scarce regarding the numbers of primates, their sourcing, housing, care and fate, or the application of the Three Rs within projects. Project grant holders and the relevant Commission officer were consulted about their experiences with the FP7 ethics review process. Overall, it was seen as meaningful and beneficial, but some concerns were also noted. Ethical follow-up during project performance and upon completion was recognised as a valuable tool in ensuring that animal welfare requirements were adequately addressed. Based upon the outcome of the survey, recommendations are presented on how to strengthen the ethical review process under the upcoming Framework Programme ‘Horizon 2020’, while adequately taking into account the specific requirements of Directive 2010/63/EU, with the aim of limiting the harms inflicted on the animals and the numbers used, and ultimately, replacing the use of primates altogether.

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