Particular Issues Surrounding Animal Use in Neuroscience
• Models of nervous system disease may include behavioral and cognitive phenotypes that have the potential to result in suffering:
o Research on conditions such as addiction, depression, anxiety, and fear may be problematic.
• Pain, which is normally avoided in the design of experiments, is an important topic of study.
• Modification of sensory experience may be considered a form of suffering.
• Non-human primate use raises concerns due to costs and public perception.
• Research may involve invasive methodology, restriction or control of food or water intake, and/or prolonged or repetitive procedures.
SOURCE: Blakemore presentation.
Animal Use Issues Specific to Neuroscience
Blakemore highlighted several issues associated with the use of animals that are specific to neuroscience research, such as the use of non-human primates, pain as a topic of study, and the use of invasive methodologies (Box 1-1). Non-human primates, due to their close phylogenetic relatedness to humans, make them the preferred species to study issues such as fine motor control, high-level cognitive functions, and decision making. This close evolutionary proximity to humans increases scrutiny of the use of non-human primates and raises special concerns, including public attitude about their use, supply issues, and costs. The 2006 Weatherall Report2 concluded that there is scientific justification for the carefully regulated use of non-human primates when there is no other way to address clearly defined questions, including those raised by certain neuroscience studies (MRC, 2006).
Another issue is the use of genetically modified animals. Modification of genes that regulate the nervous system and neurologic development can produce a particular phenotype with behavioral and cognitive consequences. The impact of the phenotype itself, in terms of suffering, must be taken into account even before considering the impact of procedures to be carried out on genetically modified animals. The introduction of human genetic mate-
2 Note that a comprehensive 5-year follow-up review of the quality and impact of primate research has been published. Review of Research Using Non-Human Primates: Report of a Panel Chaired by Professor Sir Patrick Bateson FRS is available at http://www.mrc.ac.uk/Utilities/Documentrecord/index.htm?d=MRC008083.