Are we learning about human depression by tormenting monkeys?Take OHSU's primate researcher, Judy Cameron who exposes generations of baby monkeys to stressful stimuli—historically using remote-controlled cars and airplanes—and records their teethgrinding and mother-clinging to measure anxiety. She is searching for the anxiety gene in monkeys, intending to make a leap to identify an anxiety gene in human children. Extrapolation from animals to humans, especially in the realm of behavior, is highly speculative and the benefits remain unsubstantiated. Measuring lab-induced fear in monkeys has thus far provided no insight into why my human patients are too anxious to go to school. I believe it never will. The fields of clinical psychology, psychiatry and behavioral pediatrics have exploded in their understanding of both healthy child development and child psychopathology. Cameron profoundly underestimates this depth of knowledge. We know a tremendous amount about depression and its treatment in young people—from astute observation of humans, not monkeys. Cutting-edge advances in technology now allow sophisticated brain imaging. Daniel Amen, MD has done thousands of brainimaging studies allowing in-depth understanding of disorders including depression, addiction, and ADHD. Children with psychiatric disorders come from a myriad of backgrounds. Neuropsychological processes and interpersonal experiences influence their genetically predisposed individual differences. Consider the rhesus monkey model. The behavior of chronically stressed monkeys kept in completely unnatural, stark labs has no relation to that of their wild monkey counterparts, much less to people. These frightened animals' stress hormones soar, changing their blood chemistry and rendering the corresponding data meaningless. In Oregon this means an 11-milliondollar expansion at OHSU's Primate Center, adding 900 monkeys to the 3,500 already there. Meanwhile budget cuts to public mental healthcare services are so devastated, they leave chronically mentally ill Oregonians without care, out on the streets, and sometimes dead. Animal experimentation has become a multi-billion-dollar industry. Conservative estimates suggest we are throwing away hundreds of millions of dollars a year on animal studies that do not advance the human condition. In fact, in April 2002, Good Morning America had a threepart series, "You Paid for It!" in which Cameron's experiments were used to illustrate ridiculous, taxpayer-funded research. In an attempt to keep grant dollars flowing, universities employ sophisticated public relations teams to douse the light being shed on these fallacious but lucrative experiments. In fact, valid science is clearly establishing that extrapolation from one species to another is fraught with error. The case against animal models has been carefully made and clearly documented. Increasingly more scientists recognize the animal-model paradigm fails as true science and the only "universal model for a human…is other humans." Drs. Ray and Jean Greek have written two scholarly books, Sacred Cows and Golden Geese and Specious Science, documenting how animal research not only fails to advance human health, it undermines medical progress. Clinical trials, in vitro studies, and the recent mapping of the human genome have rendered animal experiments like Cameron's as unnecessary as they are cruel. After a thorough examination of the lack of scientific merit of animal research, we are left with the profound ethical implications of subjecting countless animals to meaningless suffering. Malgosia Cegielski Ph.D is a licensed clinical psychologist living and practicing in Portland, OR. She appeared in an award-winning three-part investigative series about the Oregon Primate Center called, "Inside the Cage" produced by Portland KATU Channel 2's Eric Mason, July 2002. Copies are available through NWIDA.
As a clinician, I don't buy it.
As taxpayers, we all do.