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New guidelines show chimps are rarely needed for medical research

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The Institute of Medicine report specifies a couple of areas of research in which it believes the use of chimps can continue: "comparative genomics, normal and abnormal behavior, mental health, emotion, or cognition." But even within these areas, there are other scientific methods – not involving animals – that have proven to be as effective or even more effective than using chimps.

Behavioral and cognitive research: use of pediatric imaging 

Behavioral and cognitive research is one of the key areas specified by the report as potentially necessary for continued chimp research. NEAVS has cited numerous studies that use pediatric imaging – and no chimpanzees – which have made advancements in understanding brain development, hyperactivity and attention deficit disorders, social reintegration after traumatic brain injury, and other brain-related topics.

According to NEAVS, which itself has a body of published scientific work, researchers can also rely exclusively on human imaging for studying source and spatial memory; cognition/brain activity; attention, perception, vision; pain, hearing, sensation; brain structure and architecture; drug effects on the brain; and other areas.

A NEAVS paper published in August adds: "Most (behavioral researchers) believe that more funding for intervention programs, qualitative clinical research, etc., using human subjects in noninvasive research and research that might in situ benefit them, is the direction behavioral research must go."

The committee that released the report last week recognized that chimps have not proved useful in HIV research, which for a long time was one of the primary areas of chimpanzee use. Opponents of chimp research – and animal testing generally – believe that someday there will be a general understanding that the same can be said for other areas of research.

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