Chapter 1. Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook

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Diana Kwon A few years ago, officials at Switzerland’s Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office approached Hanno Würbel, the head of the animal welfare division at the University of Bern, with the task of examining the quality of experimental design in the country’s animal research. Growing public awareness of the reproducibility crisis in science—which has emerged as researchers discover that a large proportion of scientific results cannot be replicated in subsequent experiments—had put pressure on the government authority to examine this issue, Würbel says. “They wanted to know, what is the situation in Switzerland . . . and is there anything that we need to improve?” To address this question, Würbel and his colleagues examined scientific protocols in 1,277 applications for licenses to conduct animal research that were submitted to and approved by the Swiss Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO). Their analysis, published in PLOS Biology in 2016, concluded that most of the experiments described in approved applications lacked scientific rigor. Only a fraction of the protocols included important measures against bias, such as blinding, randomization, or a clear plan for statistical analysis. It’s now one of several studies that have pointed to critical flaws in the way animal experiments are designed—and many researchers argue that these flaws are major contributors to the reproducibility crisis plaguing published pre-clinical research. In 2011, for example, scientists at the pharmaceutical company Bayer reported that they were unable to reproduce the findings from 43 of 67 projects on potential drug targets in oncology, cardiology, and women’s health. Meanwhile, a 2015 PLOS Biology paper reported that more than 50 percent of preclinical research is not reproducible. The latter study’s authors highlighted poor experimental design as one of the main causes of the problem and estimated that, in the United States alone, approximately $28 billion is spent each year on preclinical experiments that cannot be replicated. © 1986–2019 The Scientist.

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 26606 - Posted: 09.13.2019

Nell Greenfieldboyce The Environmental Protection Agency says it will aggressively reduce the use of animals in toxicity testing, with a goal of eliminating all routine safety tests on mammals by 2035. Chemicals such as pesticides typically get tested for safety on animals like mice and rats. Researchers have long been trying to instead increase the use of alternative safety tests that rely on lab-grown cells or computer modeling. The EPA's administer, Andrew Wheeler, has now set some specific deadlines to try to speed up that transition. Federal Watchdog Warns EPA Is Failing To Enforce Lead Paint Abatement Rules Shots - Health News Federal Watchdog Warns EPA Is Failing To Enforce Lead Paint Abatement Rules In a signed memo made public Tuesday, he's directed the agency to reduce all requests for, and funding of, studies with live mammals by 30 percent by 2025. He says he wants the agency to essentially eliminate all mammal study requests and funding by 2035, with the use of live mammals only allowed after that with special permission. "I really do think that with the lead time that we have in this — 16 years before we completely eliminate animal testing — that we have enough time to come up with alternatives," says Wheeler. He notes that he wrote an op-ed for his college newspaper on the need to reduce animal testing back in 1987. © 2019 npr

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 26598 - Posted: 09.11.2019

Randi Hagerman When I visited Ricaurte, Colombia, in 2016, I was surrounded by men with long faces and prominent ears. As we spoke, they would ask repetitive questions while mumbling and failing to maintain eye contact, and when they shook my hand, they turned their body away from me. They were interested in me but were too shy to interact. This type of anxiety-related approach-withdrawal behavior is typical of those with fragile X syndrome (FXS), a well-characterized genetic disease that is the most common inherited form of intellectual disability and the most common single-gene cause of autism. Even many of the Ricaurte women, who usually have at least one good copy of the X chromosome, showed similar social deficits. I had never seen so many individuals with FXS all together. I thought to myself: This is ground zero for FXS. Likely because the founding families of this small village had one or more carriers of the causative mutation, Ricaurte has the highest known prevalence of FXS in the world. Last year, our team published the results of genetic testing of almost all of the inhabitants in this village. We found that nearly 5 percent of male and more than 3 percent of female inhabitants of Ricaurte have FXS,1 compared to around 0.02 percent of people living in the US and in Europe. In Ricaurte, the residents are supportive of these individuals, who work in the community and are well accepted. Their behavior does not seem unusual to those living in the village. Relatives who have moved away from Ricaurte and then subsequently have had a child with FXS will move back to this town for the acceptance and support they find there. This pattern further enhances the genetic cluster of FXS-causing mutations in this area. © 1986–2019 The Scientist.

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Epigenetics
Link ID: 26582 - Posted: 09.06.2019

By Alison Abbott Marco Tamietto was aware that animal rights activists might target him after his team won ethical approval for an experiment in monkeys on blindness. But he hadn’t anticipated the threats of violence. “I found photographs of my face, my mobile phone number, and home address on Facebook posts,” he says, “with messages like: ‘We will find you and kill you.’” Tamietto, a neuroscientist at the University of Turin in Italy, is under police protection. Now, his colleagues may face similar threats. He learned this month that the Italian Ministry of Health, which approved the experiment in October 2018, has released the names and university affiliations of others involved in the study to Lega Anti Vivisezione (LAV), an animal rights group in Rome. “It’s unpleasant that a public office would do such a thing,” says Roberto Caminiti, a neuroscientist at Sapienza University of Rome whose monkey lab was filmed by undercover activists in 2014. “And paradoxical that the ministry that authorized the research would actually expose those doing the research to danger.” Lawyers at the University of Turin and University of Parma—where the monkey experiments will be carried out—say they are considering civil proceedings in relation to the leak of sensitive information and intellectual property associated with the experimental protocols. Animal research regulations in Italy are already the strictest in Europe. Yet in the past few years, activists have pressed their advantage. Tamietto’s case is a sign that they have a sympathetic ear in government: Minister of Health Giulia Grillo, a member of the populist Five Star party and a declared friend of animal rights groups. © 2019 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Animal Rights; Vision
Link ID: 26529 - Posted: 08.22.2019

By Kate Murphy Maybe it was because when the waiter asked, “Still or sparkling?” you chose sparkling. It could have also been that you were ravenous and ate a little too much. Or, possibly, it was your ex, who happened to be dining at the same restaurant and stood a little too long over your table making awkward small talk. All of these things, hic, might cause spasms, hic, in your diaphragm, hic. Referred to in the medical literature as singultus (from the Latin singult, which means gasp or sob), hiccups are familiar to anyone who has ever taken a breath. In fact, you begin to hiccup while still in the womb. Most people hiccup the most during childhood, with the bouts becoming less frequent over time, but even in adulthood, hiccups are still a common, and annoying, occurrence. Just as we all have our own particular way of sneezing, we all have a unique way of hiccuping that can range from four to 60 hiccups per minute. Most hiccups are benign and last only a few minutes or hours. But sometimes hiccups are indicative of a more serious health issue, particularly when they recur or don’t go away for days, weeks or years. Beyond being embarrassing, the muscle contractions can be physically exhausting. They can interrupt sleep and make it hard to eat. Approximately 4,000 people in the United States are admitted to the hospital every year for hiccups. The patient with the longest recorded case, according to Guinness World Records, was Charles Osborne of Anthon, Iowa, who hiccuped for 68 years straight. He claimed it started while attempting to weigh a hog before slaughtering it. Doctors say there are as many causes for hiccups as there are crazy remedies, including tugging on your tongue, standing on your head and swallowing granulated sugar. Some actually work. Others are more likely just entertainment for friends and family who watch while you try to cure yourself. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 26503 - Posted: 08.15.2019

By Jennifer Leman, Liz Tormes Art and neuroscience have been intertwined for centuries. Early surgeons and scientists who poked and prodded inside cranial cavities—such as Santiago Ramón y Cajal—often drew what they saw. These artistic renderings played a critical role in helping researchers grapple with the mysteries of our most vital organ. (Cajal even shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1906 for his drawings.) Methods for exploring the brain have (thankfully) changed, and our understanding has evolved. The desire to visualize what we discover, however, has persisted. For the ninth year in a row, the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience in Amsterdam has published the winners of its annual Art of Neuroscience competition. The contest celebrates artists and scientists who strive to illustrate the brain’s complexities. This year’s entrants questioned the origins of imagination, imaged collagen fiber, modeled starlike brain cells called astrocytes and explored other intricacies. Presented below—selected from 87 submissions representing 25 countries—are the winning entry, four honorable mentions and five works selected by Scientific American’s editors.* This video employs three artificial-intelligence-based computing systems inspired by human brain networks. The resulting three neural networks simulate the brain’s ability to generate abstract images, sounds and concepts inspired by prior experiences, a phenomenon better known as imagination. In the winning video, produced by members of the pt9 art group at Far Eastern Federal University in Russia, one neural network produces a string of jarring images prompted by a catalogue of existing photographs; a second neural network generates image descriptions; and the third neural network reads the descriptions aloud. © 2019 Scientific American

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 26466 - Posted: 07.30.2019

By Jacey Fortin A man in North Carolina died on Monday after he went swimming in a lake and was infected by Naegleria fowleri, a single-celled organism known as the “brain-eating amoeba.” The man, Eddie Gray, 59, fell ill after he visited the Fantasy Lake Water Park in Cumberland County July 12, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement on Thursday. Naegleria fowleri infections are rare, but deadly. There were 145 known infected people in the United States from 1962 through 2018, and all but four cases were fatal. The amoeba is typically found in warm freshwater, and the majority of cases in the United States have occurred in Florida and Texas. “Mr. Gray’s death was tragic and untimely,” Justin Plummer, a lawyer representing his estate, said in a statement. “The family is currently asking for privacy and respect during this difficult time.” According to his obituary, Mr. Gray was an active member of the Sedge Garden United Methodist Church who enjoyed kayaking, camping, hunting, fishing and NASCAR. “Our sympathies are with the family and loved ones,” Zack Moore, North Carolina’s state epidemiologist, said in a statement. “People should be aware that this organism is present in warm freshwater lakes, rivers and hot springs across North Carolina, so be mindful as you swim or enjoy water sports.” According to the North Carolina health department, Naegleria fowleri “does not cause illness if swallowed but can be fatal if forced up the nose, as can occur during diving, water-skiing or other water activities.” © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 26454 - Posted: 07.26.2019

By Knvul Sheikh A tropical parasite transmitted through rats and snails has caught the attention of health officials in Hawaii. But few scientists have studied the infection once it makes its way into humans, and researchers can’t say for certain whether the disease is becoming more widespread. The parasite, Angiostrongylus cantonensis, typically resides in a rat’s pulmonary arteries and is commonly known as “rat lungworm.” When its eggs hatch, tiny larvae are shed in the animals’ feces and eaten by snails or slugs. Those slugs, in turn, are often mistakenly eaten by people, on unwashed produce or in drinks that have been left uncovered. Although the larvae can’t grow into adult worms in a human host, they still can cause various complications, including flulike symptoms, headaches, stiff necks and bursts of nerve pain that seem to shift from one part of the body to another. M.R.I. scans suggest that the worms can also wriggle into the brain, leading to eosinophilic meningitis, which in rare cases can cause paralysis. Doctors in the state have noted cases of rat lungworm disease since at least 1959. But it is difficult to diagnose. To better track it, and to identify areas that prevention efforts should target, the Hawaii Department of Health began monitoring rat lungworm infections about a decade ago. From 2007 to 2017, officials tallied 82 cases, two of which resulted in death. Another 10 cases were reported in 2018, and six more have been reported among visitors and residents already this year. From the team at NYT Parenting: Get the latest news and guidance for parents. We'll celebrate the little parenting moments that mean a lot — and share stories that matter to families. The east side of the Big Island, in particular, has become a hot spot for infections, according to a review of cases published Monday in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Researchers are not sure why. Rats may be more numerous there, or more heavily infected, or more likely to cross paths with humans and infect them. Increased awareness about the disease may also have led to more infections being recognized than in the past. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Pain & Touch
Link ID: 26416 - Posted: 07.13.2019

Sandeep Ravindran In 2012, computer scientist Dharmendra Modha used a powerful supercomputer to simulate the activity of more than 500 billion neurons—more, even, than the 85 billion or so neurons in the human brain. It was the culmination of almost a decade of work, as Modha progressed from simulating the brains of rodents and cats to something on the scale of humans. The simulation consumed enormous computational resources—1.5 million processors and 1.5 petabytes (1.5 million gigabytes) of memory—and was still agonizingly slow, 1,500 times slower than the brain computes. Modha estimates that to run it in biological real time would have required 12 gigawatts of energy, about six times the maximum output capacity of the Hoover Dam. “And yet, it was just a cartoon of what the brain does,” says Modha, chief scientist for brain-inspired computing at IBM Almaden Research Center in northern California. The simulation came nowhere close to replicating the functionality of the human brain, which uses about the same amount of power as a 20-watt lightbulb. Since the early 2000s, improved hardware and advances in experimental and theoretical neuroscience have enabled researchers to create ever larger and more-detailed models of the brain. But the more complex these simulations get, the more they run into the limitations of conventional computer hardware, as illustrated by Modha’s power-hungry model. © 1986–2019 The Scientist

Keyword: Robotics
Link ID: 26269 - Posted: 05.28.2019

Sara Reardon The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) would be required to reduce its use of non-human primates in research, under a spending bill approved on 8 May by a committee in the US House of Representatives. The bill would direct the NIH “to accelerate efforts to reduce and replace the use of nonhuman primates with alternative research models” in its laboratories. It would apply to the 2020 budget year, which begins on 1 October, 2019. The agency would also be required to produce a report on the number and purpose of primates it uses in research, the amount of pain they feel and a timeline for replacing and retiring the animals. To become law, the bill would need to win approval from the full House, the Senate and President Donald Trump. Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (Democrat, California), who has worked for years to curb and regulate animal research, added the provision to the spending legislation for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the NIH’s parent. Roybal-Allard and three other members of Congress requested a bioethical review of experiments involving baby monkeys at an NIH lab in 2014. The review resulted in adjustments to some of the procedures involving the animals. The agency ended those studies in late 2015.

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 26223 - Posted: 05.10.2019

By Joe Lindsey In the final episode of Season 7 of Game of Thrones, the Night King uses a terrifying weapon—the recently deceased dragon Viserion, now reanimated—to destroy the massive, magic-infused Wall that has for millennia stopped the White Walkers from invading Westeros. As the Army of the Dead lumbers through the gap, it’s pretty clear: Winter is here. We’ve only seen the Army of the Dead in action a few times now: Hardhome, in Season 5, and Season 7’s epic Wight Hunt, but it seems like Episode 3 of Game of Thrones’ final season is setting us up for an absolutely titanic clash at the Stark’s ancestral home of Winterfell. But wights—or zombies to use a more common parlance—aren’t just a well-worn trope for fantasy writers. The possibility of reanimating dead tissue—including braaaaains—has challenged neurobiologists around the world. So what are the wights, how do they work, and why does an entire army psychically linked together seem to be controlled by just one mind—the Night King? First off, are wights zombies at all? There are actually two types of zombies, the shambling dead—as representing George A. Romero’s classics—and the zombies of Haitian legend. “There’s the socio-cultural definition of zombie from tales in Haitian voodoo, where someone was put into a state similar to death and then ‘brought back to life,’” says Bradley Voytek, avid Game of Thrones fan, neuroscientist at the University of California-San Diego, and co-author of Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep, which uses zombies as the basis for an introduction to serious neuroscience. ©2019 Hearst Magazine Media, Inc.

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 26175 - Posted: 04.27.2019

Cindy Buckmaster Wasteful, outdated, and unnecessary. These are three of the most common claims voiced by animal rights groups about the use of animals in research. Are they accurate? Not in the least. Countless published papers and medical advancements demonstrate how animal studies lead to medical progress. But despite this reality, public opinion is no longer solidly behind science. Pew Research Center polling data from 2018 showed that only 47 percent of Americans are in favor of the use of animals in scientific research. This compares to 52 percent in 2009. Another recent poll, this time from Gallup, showed slightly more encouraging results. In 2018, 54 percent of respondents said medical testing in animals is morally acceptable. That’s down from 62 percent in 2004. Based on these sobering statistics, it’s abundantly clear that the science community needs to try a new communications approach. For several decades, most research organizations have shied away from sharing anything but the most minimal details about the role of animals in advancing human and veterinary medicine. This decision was historically based in part on security concerns. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, a small group of animal extremists targeted individual scientists with harassment, home protests, and even firebombs and arson attacks. Thankfully, those days appear to be behind us. © 1986 - 2019 The Scientist.

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 26136 - Posted: 04.13.2019

By Emily Baumgaertner The brain-eating monsters are real enough — they lurk in freshwater ponds in much of the United States. Now scientists may have discovered a new way to kill them. Minuscule silver particles coated with anti-seizure drugs one day may be adapted to halt Naegleria fowleri, an exceptionally lethal microbe that invades through the sinuses and feeds on human brain tissue. The research, published in the journal Chemical Neuroscience, showed that repurposing seizure medicines and binding them to silver might kill the amoebae while sparing human cells. Scientists hope the findings will lay an early foundation for a quick cure. “Here is a nasty, often devastating infection that we don’t have great treatments for,” said Dr. Edward T. Ryan, the director of the global infectious diseases division of Massachusetts General Hospital, who was not involved in the research. “This work is clearly in the early stages, but it’s an interesting take.” Infections with brain-eating amoebae are rare but almost always deadly. Since 1962, only four of 143 known victims in the United States have survived, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than half of all cases have occurred in Texas and Florida, where the microscopic organisms thrive in warm pond water. “The classic case is a 10-year-old boy who goes swimming in the South in the summer and starts to get a headache a few days later,” Dr. Ryan said. The amoebae’s feeding causes meningoencephalitis — or swelling of the brain and nearby tissues — and is often misdiagnosed. “When it comes to treatment, doctors often end up throwing in the kitchen sink,” he added. Patients typically are given antimicrobial drugs in extremely high doses in order to break through the body’s protective blood-brain barrier. Many suffer severe side effects. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 25867 - Posted: 01.15.2019

Nobel Prize-winning American scientist James Watson has been stripped of his honorary titles after repeating comments about race and intelligence. In a TV programme, the pioneer in DNA studies made a reference to a view that genes cause a difference on average between blacks and whites on IQ tests. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory said the 90-year-old scientist's remarks were "unsubstantiated and reckless". Dr Watson had made similar claims in 2007 and subsequently apologised. He shared the Nobel in 1962 with Maurice Wilkins and Francis Crick for their 1953 discovery of the DNA's double helix structure. Dr Watson sold his gold medal in 2014, saying he had been ostracised by the scientific community after his remarks about race. He is currently in a nursing home recovering from a car accident and is said to have "very minimal" awareness of his surroundings. In 2007, the scientist, who once worked at the University of Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory, told the Times newspaper that he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really". While his hope was that everybody was equal, he added, "people who have to deal with black employees find this is not true". After those remarks, Dr Watson lost his job as chancellor at the laboratory and was removed from all his administrative duties. He wrote an apology and retained his honorary titles of chancellor emeritus, Oliver R Grace professor emeritus and honorary trustee. © 2019 BBC

Keyword: Intelligence; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 25862 - Posted: 01.14.2019

Diana Kwon When Adriano Aguzzi, a neuropathologist at the University of Zurich, learned that the application to renew his lab’s license for mouse experiments was rejected in December, he was stunned. Aguzzi uses rodents to investigate prions—misfolded proteins that cause fatal neurodegenerative disorders such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease—and for the last two decades, he has successfully received authorization to conduct studies that involve inoculating animals with prions and monitoring their vital signs as they develop disease. The latest license request was “the same application that has been renewed every three years,” he tells The Scientist. Aguzzi is one of several scientists who say it has become increasingly difficult to get licenses for animal experiments in recent years. Switzerland has some of the strictest animal protection laws in the world, and as a result, the quantity of animals used in research has steadily declined over the years. Between 2008 and 2017, for example, the number dropped by more than 100,000 per year. “What I’ve seen over the past 20 years is that regulations have tightened quite a lot. It requires much more work to write a license application and to get it approved,” says Isabelle Mansuy, a neuroepigeneticist at the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich. “Most of the additional requirements are good, because they have optimized the research in terms of animal numbers and forced us to better plan and document our experiments—but some changes are not necessary and have complicated our work.” © 1986 - 2019 The Scientist

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 25853 - Posted: 01.10.2019

Alison Abbott A court in Germany has dismissed a high-profile case of alleged animal cruelty brought against neuroscientist Nikos Logothetis, less than three weeks before hearings were scheduled to begin. The administrative court in Tübingen announced the decision on 19 December, citing new information in an expert report commissioned by the defence to review the evidence. The report was provided to prosecutors and the court at the beginning of this month. The charge against Logothetis — who is a director at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics (MPI-Biocyb) in Tübingen — was related to an alleged delay in euthanizing three sick research monkeys. Two other staff members, who have not been publicly named, were also accused of the same charge and have had their cases dismissed. The three people must now pay a small settlement, which is not associated with guilt, by mid-January. The case has roots in 2014, when an undercover animal-welfare activist infiltrated the facilities at the MPI-Biocyb and filmed the handling of some of the monkeys used in research in Logothetis’s lab. The German Animal Welfare Federation, a non-profit animal-rights organization in Bonn, used the footage to make multiple allegations of violations of animal-protection laws to police. In August 2017 a Tübingen judge dismissed all but one of the allegations, which related to the three sick monkeys. Two of the monkeys recovered after treatment, and the third was humanely killed after staff decided that it would not recover. © 2018 Springer Nature Publishing AG

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 25820 - Posted: 12.23.2018

By Neuroskeptic The science story of the past week was the claim from Chinese scientist He Jiankui that he has created gene-edited human babies. Prof. He reports that two twin girls have been born carrying modifications of the gene CCR5, which is intended to protect them against future HIV risk. It’s far from clear yet whether the gene-editing that He described has actually taken place – no data has yet been presented. The very prospect of genetically-modifying human beings has, however, led to widespread concern, with He’s claims being described as “monstrous“, “crazy” and “unethical”. All of which got me wondering: could there ever be a neuroscience experiment which attracted the same level of condemnation? What I’m asking here is whether there are neuroscience advances that would be considered inherently unethical. It would, of course, be possible to carry out any neuroscience experiment in an unethical way, by forcing or tricking people into participation. But are there experiments which would be unethical even if all the participants gave full, informed consent at every stage? Here are a couple of possibilities: Intelligence enhancement: Suppose it were possible to substantially boost human intelligence through some kind of technological means, perhaps a drug, or through brain stimulation. I suspect that many people would see this prospect as an ethical problem, because it would give users a definite advantage over non-users and thus, in effect, force people to use the technology in order to keep up. It would be a similar situation to the problem of doping in sports: if doping were widespread, it would be very difficult for non-dopers to compete.

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Intelligence
Link ID: 25738 - Posted: 12.01.2018

By Karin Brulliard Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie defended the agency’s ongoing experiments on dogs Friday and said he would continue to “reauthorize” them, eight months after Congress passed legislation limiting tests that are opposed by a bipartisan cast of lawmakers and several veterans’ groups. Speaking at the National Press Club, Wilkie rejected calls to end research that he said led to the invention in the 1960s of the cardiac pacemaker and the discovery in the late 1990s of a treatment for deadly cardiac arrhythmias. These days, he said, some of the testing is focused on spinal cord injuries. “I love canines,” Wilkie said. “But we have an opportunity to change the lives of men and women who have been terribly hurt. And until somebody tells me that that research does not help in that outcome, then I’ll continue.” Wilkie’s comments drew swift backlash from lawmakers who have criticized the experiments, which occur at three VA locations and are invasive and sometimes fatal to the dogs, as cruel and unnecessary. President Trump in March signed a spending bill that included language restricting such tests, and legislation has been proposed that would end all canine research at VA. “Having sustained catastrophic injuries on the battlefield, which included the loss of both my legs, I am acutely aware of the vital role dogs play in helping troops recover from war’s physical and psychological tolls,” said Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), an Army veteran and co-sponsor of the legislation. “The VA has not executed what we wanted as intent, which is to bring this to an end in its entirety, so we will keep up the pressure." © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Animal Rights; Regeneration
Link ID: 25660 - Posted: 11.10.2018

By Aaron E. Carroll Even before the recent news that a group of researchers managed to get several ridiculous fake studies published in reputable academic journals, people have been aware of problems with peer review. Throwing out the system — which deems whether research is robust and worth being published — would do more harm than good. But it makes sense to be aware of peer review’s potential weaknesses. Reviewers may be overworked and underprepared. Although they’re experts in the subject they are reading about, they get no specific training to do peer review, and are rarely paid for it. With 2.5 million peer-reviewed papers published annually worldwide — and more that are reviewed but never published — it can be hard to find enough people to review all the work. There is evidence that reviewers are not always consistent. A 2010 paper describes a study in which two researchers selected 12 articles already accepted by highly regarded journals, swapped the real names and academic affiliations for false ones, and resubmitted the identical material to the same journals that had already accepted them in the previous 18 to 32 months. Only 8 percent of editors or reviewers noticed the duplication, and three papers were detected and pulled. Of the nine papers that continued through the review process, eight were turned down, with 89 percent of reviewers recommending rejection. Peer review may be inhibiting innovation. It takes significant reviewer agreement to have a paper accepted. One potential downside is that important research bucking a trend or overturning accepted wisdom may face challenges surviving peer review. In 2015, a study published in P.N.A.S. tracked more than 1,000 manuscripts submitted to three prestigious medical journals. Of the 808 that were published at some point, the 2 percent that were most frequently cited had been rejected by the journals. An even bigger issue is that peer review may be biased. Reviewers can usually see the names of the authors and their institutions, and multiple studies have shown that reviews preferentially accept or reject articles based on a number of demographic factors. In a study published in eLife last year, researchers created a database consisting of more than 9,000 editors, 43,000 reviewers and 126,000 authors whose work led to about 41,000 articles in 142 journals in a number of domains. They found that women made up only 26 percent of editors, 28 percent of reviewers and 37 percent of authors. Analyses showed that this was not because fewer women were available for each role. © 2018 The New York Times Compan

Keyword: Attention
Link ID: 25643 - Posted: 11.05.2018

By David Grimm The number of monkeys used in U.S. biomedical research reached an all-time high last year, according to data released in late September by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The uptick (see graph below)—to nearly 76,000 nonhuman primates in 2017—appears to reflect growing demand from scientists who believe nonhuman primates are more useful than other animals, such as mice or dogs, for testing drugs and studying diseases that also strike humans. “I think the numbers are trending up because these animals give us better data. … We need them more than ever,” says Jay Rappaport, director of the Tulane National Primate Research Center in Covington, Louisiana, which houses about 5000 monkeys. The increase also comes amidst a surge in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which supports much of the nonhuman primate research in the United States. The figures have surprised and disappointed groups seeking to reduce the use of lab animals. The biomedical community has said it is committed to reducing the use of research animals by finding replacements and using these animals more selectively, says Thomas Hartung, director of Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing in Baltimore, Maryland. But the new numbers suggest “people are just blindly running toward the monkey model without critically evaluating how valuable it really is.” © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 25639 - Posted: 11.03.2018