David Jentsch is a Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences and the Associate Director for Research of the Brain Research Institute. In 2010, his gross pay totaled over $273,000. Jentsch’s high salary and prestigious titles might suggest that he is doing invaluable research to save human lives, but his research history shows otherwise.
Despite his attempts to connect himself to life-saving medicine, Jentsch has never been involved in cancer studies and has produced no research to save human lives. Instead, he studies drug addiction and impulse control in primates, mice, and rats. Jentsch doses primates with methamphetamine and other drugs in an attempt to study how impulsivity relates to substance abuse in humans, examines changes in brain chemistry resulting from drug abuse, and tries to mimic schizophrenia. In addition to addicting animals to dangerous drugs, he has also injected pregnant monkeys with bisphenol A (BPA), only to conclude that BPA interrupts the healthy brain development of infants.
Although these are worthwhile topics of study, Jentsch’s research methods are ineffective and direct resources away from humans with addiction problems. His research overlooks the simple fact that human and nonhuman animals are different, behaviorally and biologically. Monkeys do not naturally become addicted to nicotine or methamphetamine, and when unnaturally exposed to them, their bodies metabolize drugs differently than ours do.
Many human subjects seeking help to combat addiction would volunteer for more effective studies on addiction if provided the opportunity. Further, the funding and resources devoted to Jentsch’s research could be better used to directly help humans who are suffering from drug addiction.
In defense of his research, Jentsch says:
“What about the ethics of inaction? I would like the people who question the ethics of research to explain why it’s ethically justifiable to withhold research that would crucially advance the human condition.”
Animal advocates are not proposing inaction; we are promoting more effective research. We want tax dollars to directly help humans suffering from addiction and not to be spent on repeating experiments that have shown time and again to yield inapplicable results. Jentsch should instead be questioning the ethics of action for the sake of action. In an effort to further his career, he is causing animals to suffer while neglecting the humans for whom he claims to have compassion.
Edythe London has been doing drug addiction experiments on nonhuman animals for over three decades. Her focus is on methamphetamine and nicotine addiction in primates. Her recent experiments have involved experimenting on Vervet monkeys. Rather than using tax dollars to study human addicts, who could volunteer while receiving assistance in rehabilitation efforts, London uses nonhuman primates who do not naturally become addicted in the same way that humans do.
The results of London’s addiction experiments? The finding that drug craving is associated with emotions accompanied by an exorbitant $295,647 salary. London became the subject of public controversy after receiving $6 million from the tobacco company Philip Morris for nicotine studies. This sends a clear message that her focus lies in making money rather than producing unbiased scholarship. London routinely kills monkeys then puts them through MRI and PET scans; her vanity license plate reads: PETSCAN.
In 2013, London received almost $400,000 in federal grant money (i.e. tax payer dollars) to mentor graduate students. It is imperative she stops promoting experiments on animals so that there is not another generation of professors who abuse animals and waste public funds.
Michele A. Basso
For years, Joaquin Fuster was a focus of animal rights activists in the Los Angeles area. Fuster eventually retired, around the time Progress for Science formed, but he left behind a legacy of animal abuse and senseless research. Specifically, his lab, the Fuster Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, remains. With Fuster’s retirement in 2012, UCLA chose to hire the Crueler Deville of monkey research—Michele Basso. Where Fuster was depriving monkeys of water, giving them barely enough to keep them alive, Basso is drilling holes into the heads of live monkeys.
Prior to coming to UCLA, Basso was at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she proved that she is both unethical and ineffective at her job. For decades Basso has been conducting extremely gruesome experiments on animals, including mice and monkeys. Much of her research has included physically soldering devises and drilling holes in to the heads of animals, including monkeys. Not only does she conduct gruesome experiments, but as this primer on Basso by Madison Monkeys highlights, she continues to study issues that we have had adequate and accurate research on since the mid twentieth century.
To add to the fact that her studies are unnecessary, she has a history of conducting bad research, which has resulted in the deaths of the monkeys she is using. While at UW, Madison, after a monkey died during a research experiment, it was revealed that she used inappropriate tools to drill holes in monkeys’ skulls and attached devices to them inappropriately—not only did they suffer the pain and fear of these procedures, some died and/or developed brain lesions and other problems from these procedures (on top of the pain of being caged in a lab and the experiments themselves).
Michele Basso’s work is unethical and ineffective but she continues in this work at a fast pace. Since being at UCLA, she published the following studies which rely on archaic and cruel methodologies:
- Vokoun Corinne R, Huang Xin, Jackson Meyer B, Basso Michele A Response normalization in the superficial layers of the superior colliculus as a possible mechanism for saccadic averaging The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 2014; 34(23): 7976-87.
- Ghitani Nima, Bayguinov Peter O, Vokoun Corinne R, McMahon Shane, Jackson Meyer B, Basso Michele A Excitatory synaptic feedback from the motor layer to the sensory layers of the superior colliculus The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 2014; 34(20): 6822-33.
- Mahamed Safraaz, Garrison Tiffany J, Shires Joel, Basso Michele A Stimulation of the Substantia Nigra Influences the Specification of Memory-Guided Saccades Journal of neurophysiology, 2013; 39(1): .
- Powers Alice S, Basso Michele A, Evinger Craig Blinks slow memory-guided saccades Journal of neurophysiology, 2013; 109(3): 734-41.
A professor of Neurobiology and Psychology at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA, Dario Ringach does vision research, studying how the brain parses the activity of millions of photoreceptors in the eye and how vision helps in the planning and execution of motor actions: how humans see.
Formerly, Ringach, seeking to understand eye movement in humans, studied the spatial structure of the visual cortex of macaque monkeys. He conducted this research by placing the monkeys in restraint devices, paralyzing them, and placing metal coils in their eyes, after which he would kill them or have them killed.
Coming under criticism on a variety of different fronts−people concerned for the welfare of the animals as well as those objecting to the misuse of tax dollars on ineffective, needless, and unethical experiments−Ringach announced that he would stop experimenting on animals in 2006. He claims that his motivations for no longer using animals in experiments was concern over the welfare of his family and fear of activists. However, he has publicly taunted activists and runs one of the most visible pro-vivisection websites; these actions do not demonstrate a sense of fear. We believe he uses this as a rhetorical excuse intended to tarnish the reputation of animal activists.
Despite claiming to not use living nonhuman subjects in his work anymore, he continues to use data collected by others from animal tests in some of his work. Ringach is also an outspoken and relentless proponent and apologist for the vivisection industry, blogging and tweeting his defense of the animal experiments that go on at UCLA and elsewhere and coming out in support of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act—a law that is currently one of the greatest threats to First Amendment speech in the United States. From his various pulpits, which also include speaking at pro-vivisection talks, conferences and forums, he attacks compassionate animal rights activists pursuing legal dissent as “terrorists”, “fanatics”, “thugs” and “extremists” and holds that “the moral status of animals is not equal to that of humans.”
His continued support of using animals as research subjects is particularly problematic given that his own research proves that animal testing is not necessary. Since 2006, he has conducted much research without any reliance on animal models and been successful at getting publications and grants. There is no need for animal tests. His work proves it, yet he still advocates for it.