Great Apes More Intelligent, More Vulnerable than Previously Known, Say Top Scientists at AAAS Symposium

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NEWS RELEASE February 14, 2013
Great Apes More Intelligent, More Vulnerable than Previously Known, Say Top Scientists at AAAS Symposium
Neal Barnard, M.D.

American Association for the Advancement of Science Hosts Meeting on Breakthroughs in Primate Intelligence Research

BOSTON—Neal Barnard, M.D., of the George Washington University School of Medicine and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), will moderate the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s symposium on primate cognition at its annual meeting. The symposium focuses on recent breakthroughs in our understanding of nonhuman primates’ cognitive abilities, as well as the range and severity of their psychopathology, providing scientific support for a dramatic shift in how they are used in scientific experimentation.

“Primates’ memory and language skills are more advanced than previously thought, sometimes exceeding those of humans,” says Dr. Barnard. “A strong case can be made that they should be considered ‘vulnerable’ subjects and should not be used in invasive experiments.”

Symposium

Title: Breakthroughs in Our Understanding of Primate Cognition and Psychopathology
Friday, February 15, 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m.
Hynes Convention Center, Room 208, 900 Boylston St., Boston

Moderator and Organizer: Neal Barnard, M.D., George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences and PCRM

Speakers:
Tetsuro Matsuzawa, Ph.D., Kyoto University
Pan troglodytes and Homo sapiens: Neuroanatomical comparison of cognitive development

Victoria Wobber, Harvard University Department of Psychology
Recent findings from comparative cognition research with chimpanzees and bonobos

Martin Brüne, M.D., Ph.D., University Bochum Hospital
Psychopathology in hominoids: do apes present treatable psychiatric conditions?

Speakers will present recent scientific studies showing that primates’ memory, language skills, and social structures are much more sophisticated than previously thought. They will also present research finding that chimpanzees can display symptoms of psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. PCRM scientists released a study in 2011 finding that chimpanzees previously used in invasive experiments can show signs of mood and anxiety disorders similar to those of human torture survivors.

The presentations will provide a scientific basis for discussion of ethical considerations regarding the use of nonhuman primates in medical experimentation. The Institute of Medicine recently released a landmark report that issued new guidelines for the use of chimpanzees in experiments. The report found no area of health research for which invasive chimpanzee experimentation was essential. The National Institutes of Health are now implementing the report’s recommendations.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

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Jeanne Stuart McVey
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