Animals In Print
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28 July 2011 Issue

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Chimpanzees Used in Experiments Suffer Mood and Anxiety Disorders

Negra, a chimpanzee used in experiments, showed signs of mood and anxiety disorders similar to those faced by torture survivors. Her story is profiled in “Signs of Mood and Anxiety Disorders in Chimpanzees,” a new study by PCRM scientists.

Long before she arrived at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, Negra was taken from the wild as an infant for use in hepatitis vaccine experiments. For decades, she was subjected to invasive procedures, kept in solitary confinement, and had each of her infants removed from her at an early age. Another chimpanzee, Mawa, was kept as a family pet and had serious injuries from a rope tied around his waist.

Sadly, these chimpanzees’ stories are not unique. In the new study, PCRM director of research policy Hope Ferdowsian, M.D., M.P.H., and PCRM senior research scientist Debra Durham, Ph.D., uncover the mental anguish experienced by chimpanzees living in sanctuaries who have histories of laboratory experimentation, becoming orphaned, or other traumatic experiences. Drs. Ferdowsian and Durham and their collaborators assessed the chimpanzees using criteria similar to those doctors use to diagnose psychiatric disorders in humans.

“Our study's findings underscore the association between psychopathology and conditions that include captivity, confinement, physical harm, loss of social bonds, and isolation,” noted the paper's authors. “Mood and anxiety disorders such as PTSD and depression are commonly diagnosed among humans exposed to significant acute, recurrent, or persistent trauma. This study suggests that chimpanzees can exhibit syndromes similar to PTSD and depression as a result of potentially traumatic experiences.”

Dr. Ferdowsian previewed the research last year at PCRM’s Animals, Research, and Alternatives conference, which brought together experts from around the world to discuss the scientific and ethical imperatives associated with animal research, changing cultural perspectives about the status of animals in society, and burgeoning alternatives to animal research.

The chimpanzee study, which was funded by the Arcus Foundation, gives support and substantiation for efforts such as the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act that encourage the United States to join nearly every other nation in the world and end invasive experiments on chimpanzees.

To learn more about the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act, visit PCRM Online - http://www.pcrm.org


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