Maternal Deprivation Experiments
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Response from University Communications about Message to Chancellor Rebecca Blank about Maternal Deprivation Research at UW-Madison

From: University Communications <[email protected]>
Date: Sat, Oct 4, 2014 at 7:03 AM
Subject: Your message about research at UW-Madison
To: Rebecca Blank <[email protected]>

Thank you for your interest in research at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

The planned research with young monkeys is aimed at understanding how adversity early in life influences the development of the brain. That knowledge — coupled with clinical work with human patients — could provide the basis for new and better treatments for people suffering from anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and other psychological conditions that lead to undue suffering for tens of millions of people in the United States alone.

Critics of this mission draw comparisons between the modern study and the important work done at UW–Madison decades ago by Harry Harlow. It is true that the current study, like Harlow’s work, is aimed at better understanding how the brain and behavior change when early infant environments are disrupted. But the current study is also fundamentally different from Harlow’s work and recent petitions have distorted the facts of the work. The infant monkeys are reared with human contact, with other infant monkeys, with toys and environment enrichment. And advances in brain imaging and chemistry allow modern UW–Madison researchers to address basic causes and associations between brain development and mental illness that Harlow would never have been able explore.

A detailed description of the research and its rationale can be found here:

The way animal research is undertaken on our campus has also changed a great deal in the decades since Harlow was active in Madison. This vital anxiety research has been assessed by several university committees tasked with making sure that potentially beneficial research subjects the fewest animals to the least invasive possible measures. As with all animal research on campus, specially trained veterinarians will care for the monkeys involved and ensure that all the work is done in accordance with federal regulations enforced by the National Institutes for Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

We remain committed to the humane conduct of important biomedical research. We appreciate your willingness to consider all sides of the story before judging our work in light of rhetoric clearly intended to mislead and inflame emotions on the sensitive issue of animal-based research.

University Communications
University of Wisconsin-Madison

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