End funding for cruel monkey experiments at Yale and Duke Universities
I was horrified to learn that the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative is funding cruel and irrelevant monkey experiments at Duke University and Yale University. These experiments exploit qualities in monkeys that are seen in humans, such as sensitivity, altruism and empathy towards other monkeys, and have nothing to do with autism. In these cruel, invasive experiments, monkeys’ heads and bodies are fully confined in restraint chairs. Electrodes are surgically placed deep into the brain to record neural activity. Brain recordings are made while monkeys are tested as they respond to images on a screen that are linked to a reward of a squirt of fruit juice. In hundreds of trials, these experiments examine whether the monkey will give a juice reward to himself or his partner or both. The researchers claim they are studying the brain mechanism behind kindness, and how this can apply to potential therapies in people with autism. The experiments also inject oxytocin directly into the monkeys’ brains to study its influence on their behavior. Supposedly this will demonstrate its potential for use in autism treatment. This is inexcusably redundant. Oxytocin has been studied for years for its applications to human autism. A 2015 study reported in Molecular Psychiatry showed that a five week treatment of nasal oxytocin was helpful to 31 autistic children. The Duke/Yale monkey experiments are hopelessly outdated and have, at best, a loose and tenuous connection to human behavior, let alone a complex disorder such as autism. It’s time scientists stopped using monkeys and other animals in primitive experiments that falsely claim to advance treatments for serious human conditions in need of true and human-relevant research. Decades ago the world of neuroscience was changed by non-invasive imaging. From its early beginning, this field has expanded to include a wide range of methodologies that allow scientists to use specialized and high-resolution MRI to study the brain’s anatomy, neural connectivity and chemistry directly in the brains of autistic children, adolescents and adults. This is where our answers and cures will come from, not from experiments on monkeys or other animals. Please stop funding these cruel experiments on monkeys at Duke and Yale Universities and shift all Simons Foundation funding to human-centered, non-animal research.
This message is going to Dr. Marilyn H. Simons, President, Simons Foundation
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