As a psychiatrist, I was disheartened by the decision of Isthmus to promulgate the animal activists' claim that UW-Madison is "reviving" the long-ago work of Dr. Harry Harlow ("Motherless Monkeys," 7/31/2014).
The methods used by Harlow in the 1950s are not being used today, despite what the animal rights activists are suggesting. Dr. Ned Kalin's work is following the current state-of-the-art guidelines for the ethical use of nonhuman primates in research. His research focuses on key clinical issues in the treatment of children who have been exposed to early life stresses, including neglect. There are clear links between early life trauma and the development of serious anxiety and mood disorders, which in turn can have devastating consequences. Dr. Kalin's work seeks to identify new molecular targets for preventing the emergence of psychiatric illness in children who are exposed to early life trauma.
As Isthmus noted, the research protocols for monkey research at UW-Madison have received intense internal and external institutional scrutiny. Dr. Kalin's project was approved only after two committees concluded that the likely benefits to human health outweigh the negatives.
The ongoing consideration of the potential benefits and risks of current and proposed future research should focus on the actual project under review, not on studies that were completed during the prior century.
Robert N. Golden, Dean, UW School of Medicine and Public Health
I would like to add a clarification to Noah Phillips' interesting article about monkey research at UW-Madison. Regarding the quote from me that "a typical research project protocol receives around four person-hours of scrutiny from an oversight committee," the original quote from an article that I wrote states that this is the scrutiny received by a "relatively uncomplicated protocol not associated with significant animal pain or distress." More complex protocols do receive more extensive scrutiny.
Eric Sandgren, Director, UW-Madison Research Animal Resources Center
The public debate surrounding Ned Kalin's big-government, tax-and-spend approach to animal experimentation leads to an obvious question: Why can't Kalin find his own funding? If Kalin's work is such a wise public "investment," and if he's so close to a supposed cure for anxiety, then surely Kalin could find his own funding through the private sector, rather than forcing taxpayers to pay his bills.
According to public records analysis of government payouts, taxpayers have spent $525,540 just for this one wasteful spending project. Clearly our money could be better spent elsewhere.
As Kalin and the UW lobby for more taxpayer-funding for their maternal deprivation experiments in your newspaper, readers should be made aware of who's footing the bill -- and who's cashing the checks.
Anthony Bellotti, Executive director, White Coat Waste Project
I am an undergraduate at the UW and have worked at the Primate Center for two-plus years. My lab is focused on primate well-being, and we study how these animals interact with toys, television, music, each other and their environment. We care about these animals.
When reading an article such as "Motherless Monkeys," it is important to keep the above in mind. The vast majority of Kalin's grant will go toward human research and non-terminal monkey research. A subset of animals will be humanely euthanized, and they have been determined, both by the investigator and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, as a small but necessary part of the much bigger picture.
This study has the potential to help 40 million American adults who suffer from anxiety disorders and others who suffer from depression, not to mention its potential applications in nonhuman primate well-being. Many perspectives are needed to get the full picture, but as long as irrelevant ones are perpetuated, scientific progress and solutions will be stalled.
I would like to correct some of factual errors contained in the recent article on research with monkeys at UW-Madison. First, the review of the "earlier" protocol involved two IACUCs, not just the L&S committee, with a total of 16 members and nearly 90% voting for approval.
Second, it is not true that the earlier protocol was never begun, in part, for "internal opposition." Once approved, investigators can begin research whenever they see fit.
Third, reference is made to earlier work of Dr. Kalin's in which monkeys' amygdalae were "damaged with acid." Instead, the amygdalae were "lesioned"/damaged using microinfusions of a specific amino acid to overstimulate glutamate receptors using modern neurosurgical techniques. Amino acids are key nutritional elements that form proteins and act as neurotransmitters.
Finally, Dr. Harlow's early research in which monkeys were reared in the absence of any animal companionship is irrelevant to the current discussion. Dr. Kalin's research does not involve these severe conditions. The mention of this early research and quotes including "pit of despair" and "rape rack" serve no function other than to negatively bias the reader towards Dr. Kalin's research.
Craig Berridge, Chair, College of Letters & Science Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee