Maternal Deprivation at UW-Madison Today
Ned H. Kalin, MD, is the Chair Department of Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Dr. Kalin is removing baby monkeys from their mothers at birth to create highly anxious and fearful research subjects. Deprived of their mothers' protection and comfort, each infant will be exposed to multiple frightening experiences, including a live kingsnake. Then, when the infants are about one year old, Kalin will kill them and dissect their brain. Kalin says that he hopes to see differences between the brains of the traumatized monkeys and the dissected brains of the normal baby monkeys not taken from their mothers at birth.
Dr. Kalin is the coauthor of approximately 180 published scientific papers. Most have described his experiments on animals. His publication list gives a hint of what his career has meant for the young monkeys he has used; a short sample:
- Shuttlebox avoidance in rhesus monkeys: effects on plasma cortisol and beta-endorphin (1983)
- Behavioral and physiologic effects of CRH administered to infant primates undergoing maternal separation (1989)
- The neurobiology of fear (1993)
- Primate models to understand human aggression (1999)
- Nonhuman primate models to study anxiety, emotion regulation, and psychopathology (2003)
- Studying non-human primates: a gateway to understanding anxiety disorders (2004)
- Brain regions associated with the expression and contextual regulation of anxiety in primates (2005)
- Role of the primate orbitofrontal cortex in mediating anxious temperament (2007)
- Orbitofrontal cortex lesions alter anxiety-related activity in the primate bed nucleus of stria terminalis (2010)
A more complete bibliography is available here.
In his recent publications, Kalin has detailed the change to the fear response of particularly fearful young monkeys when various parts of their brains are burned away with either acid or electric cauterization.
Kalin's New Experiment
In Kalin's new project, "Effects of early experience on the development of anxiety and its neural substrate," he says that he has gone as far as he can in his study of anxiety in "normal" monkeys. (This is misleading because he has used monkeys that he had identified as being abnormally fearful.) And now, he must study fearfulness in monkeys taken from their mothers almost at birth and compare it to the fearfulness of monkeys allowed to stay with their mothers for a few months. [A copy of his university approved protocol can be found here.]
The infants are taken from their mothers within 24 hours of birth and are kept alone in an incubator for up to 42 days when they are paired with another monkey of the same age who has been similarly isolated.
While alone in the incubator, the infants have a “surrogate peer.” Kalin says: “[A]n upright surrogate covered with a soft material that is able to move back and forth at the infant's discretion, will be provided for the animal.”
Surrogate-peer-rearing is widely acknowledged to cause heightened anxiety in young monkeys.
In one study of 370 rhesus macaques born at the National Institutes of Health Animal Center between 1994 and 2004, it was found that significantly more surrogate-peer-reared animals self-bit compared to mother-reared animals. Self-biting can occur at least as early as the 32nd day of age in monkeys reared without their mothers. “Self-biting” is an industry-coined euphemism for what previously was referred to as self-mutilation. [Early predictors of self-biting in socially-housed rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). Lutz CK, Davis EB, Ruggiero AM, Suomi SJ. Am J Primatol. 2007.]
Kalin will kill the 40 male monkeys in his experiment when they are 61 to 70 weeks old. He will cut out parts of their brain and report on any differences he can identify in a research paper.
Before they are killed, they will be subjected to a number of tests and fear-inducing experiences.
At approx. 2 wks of age, while still being kept completely alone, they will be removed from their incubator and subjected to the “Human Intruder.” They will have blood taken, and undergo a PET scan.
In the Human Intruder procedure, the infant is placed alone in a room. A stranger enters the room but doesn’t look at him. Then the human leaves, comes back ten minutes later and stares at the monkey. Rhesus monkeys perceive direct stares as threats. Immediately afterwards, the monkey is anesthetized and brain-scanned.
Sometime between their 6th and 7th week of age, each monkey will paired with another infant who has also been isolated and also frightened by the Human Intruder.
©2009 Elana Goren
Over the ensuing year, they will be subjected to the Human Intruder six additional times. On each occasion, they will be separated from their cage-mate. Repeatedly separating maternally-deprived paired infant monkeys is a recognized cause of emotional injury.
They will undergo periodic brain scans; each time they will again be separated from the only companion they have.
Sometime between their 37th and 51st wk of age, they will be frightened with a live kingsnake.
During this period, they will be exposed to an unfamiliar monkey of about their own age. They will be put in a “play room” – an alien place to them – on two occasions. Together, these experiences are apparently intended to assure that the young monkeys are frightened while their brains are developing.
Between their 57th and 60th week of age they will again be subjected to the Human Intruder, have more blood taken, and undergo a second spinal tap.
Sometime between their 61st and 70th week of age, Kalin will kill all 40 of these young monkeys.
No matter what Kalin discovers in his study of maternally deprived rhesus monkeys' brains, there still will not be a medical cure for the trauma suffered by human children who are abused and neglected. His claims are controversial.
Over the past 18 years, Dr. Kalin’s research using monkeys to study the neurobiology of fear has cost taxpayers many millions of dollars. In the past ten years alone, it has cost us $5,075,798. [National Institutes of Health. Grant R01MH046729. Development and Regulation of Emotion in Primates.]