Site update

Since I have been really terrible at updating the blog (but pretty good at keeping up with the facebook blog posts) I've added the widget below so that facebook cross posts to the blog.

You shouldn't need to join facebook but can just click on the links in the widget to access the articles. If you have any problems or comments please mail me at arandjel 'AT'

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The tortured monkeys (fail) are self aware (win!)

when i first saw the article, I thought it was cool news (although am surprised it is being touted as novel), however when i saw and read the study, I decided not to post it because of the torture these monkeys had to endure for the finding (and I am not an end justifies the means type). But then i saw this great blog post from the primate freedom blog, and it so nicely summarized my feelings on the issue that I have re-posted it below. (Also see this discover magazine blog entry for an interesting review, including a strange splitting of hairs from Dr. de Waal which seems to convolute the existence of self-awareness and passing the self-awareness test) -MA

From Primate Freedom
Classic Evidence of Self-Awareness Not Sufficient to Deter UW-Madison Invasive Brain Experiments on Monkeys; Vivisectors Delighted by News

From the UW-Madison Press Release:
For first time, monkeys recognize themselves in the mirror, indicating self-awareness
Sept. 29, 2010
by David Tenenbaum

..... a study published today (Sept. 29) by Luis Populin, a professor of anatomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, shows that under specific conditions, a rhesus macaque monkey that normally would fail the mark test can still recognize itself in the mirror and perform actions that scientists would expect from animals that are self-aware.

..... Populin, who studies the neural basis of perception and behavior, had placed head implants on two rhesus macaque monkeys, while preparing to study attention deficit disorder. Then Abigail Rajala, an experienced animal technician who is in the university's Neuroscience Training Program, mentioned that one of the monkeys could recognize himself in a small mirror. "I told her the scientific literature says they can't do this," says Populin, "so we decided to do a simple study."

Much to his delight*, it turned out that the graduate student was right.
*Poplin thought to himself, "It's delightful that the monkeys I'm mutilating actually realize what's happening to them. My job's even more fun now!"

You can read the entire paper here: Rhesus Monkeys (Macaca mulatta) Do Recognize Themselves in the Mirror: Implications for the Evolution of Self-Recognition. be sure to look at the movies and the images.

Here's what Populin writes about one of the movies: "The view of the head implant has been blocked for discretion."

Discretion: circumspect; heedful of circumstances and potential consequences; prudent.

Here's one of the images -- also censored out of concern over the potential consequences of allowing the public to have a feeling for what these isolated monkeys undergo in a university lab:
You can glean a little of what Populin's lab does to monkeys (and cats) in this paper, in which he writes about his experiments on Shepard, Glenn, and Conrad: Monkey Sound Localization: Head-Restrained versus Head-Unrestrained Orienting. Luis C. Populin. The Journal of Neuroscience, September 20, 2006.

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