Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Really the ideal model for the study of the human brain is... the human brain. Dr. Ray Greek, president of Americans For Medical Advancement: "In the 1800s or 1900s, you could pretty much cut animals up as you wanted. But now the things we can do with functional magnetic resonance imaging means today we can do a lot of things to intact humans that we have been doing on open monkey brains."

A PROBLEM WITH PRIMATE EXPERIMENTATION

Steve Connor: The primate paradox that makes experiments on monkeys both necessary and controversial

At the heart of the debate over using monkeys in scientific research is the primate paradox: their closeness to humans makes them the ideal experimental model for the study of the brain, yet because they look so much like us, they also appear to feel pain in the same way....

In Britain, experiments involving the higher primates – great apes such as chimps and gorillas – have been banned, even though in theory their brains would be better experimental models than those of monkeys.

The scientific consensus in the UK – but not in the US – appears to be that chimps are just too close to man to justify using them as experimental "guinea pigs". Laboratory chimps, for instance, can show total terror at the sight a man in a white coat holding a hypodermic needle – any parent of a child waiting to vaccinated would empathise with that....