Decades of cruel monkey experiments at the University of Sydney

Hidden in laboratories within the University of Sydney, marmosets have been used in brain and vision experiments for many years. In some cases they are killed and their tissues removed, and in others they are anaesthetized and held in stereotaxic frames whilst their brains are explored.

The various experiments carried out at the University over the years have included measuring visual response systems in marmosets.

For example in one experiment(1) extracellular recordings were made from 25 marmosets. Each animal was initially sedated with the drug Alfaxan and supplementary doses were given during the surgery which was performed under local anaesthesia. Their heads were placed in a stereotaxic frame (a metal contraption that holds the animal immobile with their head held completely still) and a craniotomy (surgical removal of part of the skull to expose the brain) was performed.
Muscular paralysis was induced and the animals were artificially ventilated. EEG recordings were then made while the animals were immobilized.

Recording sessions lasted between 48 to 72 hours. The pupils were dilated and the corneas protected with contact lenses and remained in place for the duration of the experiment. A durotomy (a small tear in the brain) was made above the craniotomy and a guide tube containing the recoding electrode was inserted in the marmoset brains. Visual stimuli were generated and measurements taken.

At the end of the experiment they were killed.

In another experiment published in 2015, 3 adult male marmosets underwent craniotomies in order to measure slow brain rhythms in the cerebral cortex(2).

And in an earlier publication dated 2011(3) vivisectors at the University of Sydney (in associated with the University of Melbourne and Monash University) used 8 marmosets in neuroscience research. Under local anaesthesia the animals were placed in a stereotaxic frame. Lenses were used to focus the eyes at a distance whilst electrode penetrations of the brain were made. After the recordings were complete, the monkeys were killed.

These are just 3 examples of primate research carried out at the University of Sydney over the past few years. These 3 examples all received taxpayers’ funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council(4).

All marmosets used in these experiments at the University of Sydney have been procured from the marmoset breeding facility located in Gippsland, Victoria. Taken away from their social groups, and required to travel on long journeys interstate, they then find themselves exposed to these grueling procedures and ultimate death.

Humane Research Australia notes that for decades researchers at the University of Sydney have been using monkeys in vision and brain experiments. Indeed Prof Martin has been using them at the University since at least the year 2000(5).

Very little appreciable value has come from all this monkey research and resources expended on grants and maintaining the breeding facilities. It is now time Australia moved away from funding this research and instead funding valid human-relevant research and now turned the monkey facilities into safe refuges where they can live out their lives free from harm in Australian research laboratories.

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  1. Pietersen, ANJ, Cheong, SK, Solomon, SG, Tailby, C and Martin, PR 2014 ‘Tempral response properties of koniocellular (blue-on and blue-off) cells in marmoset lateral geniculate nucleus’ J Neurophsiol 112: 1421-1438.
  2. Townsend, RG, Solomon, SS, Chen, SC, Petersen, ANJ, Martin, PR, Solomon, SG, and Gong, P 2015 ‘Emergence of complex wave patterns in primate cerebral cortex’ Jnl Neurosci 2015 35(11) pp 4657-4662
  3. Solomon, WW, Tailby, C, Gharaei, S, Camp AJ, Bourne, JA and Solomon SG 2011 ‘Visual motion integration by neurons in the middle temporal area of a new world monkey the marmoset 2011 J Physiol 589.23 pp 5741-5758
  4. NHMRC grants 1005427 and 1027913.
  5. Lin B, Martin PR, Solomon SG, Grunert U 2000 ‘ Distribution of glycine receptor subunits on primate retinal ganglion cells: a quantitative analysis Eur J Neruosci 2000 12(12) pp 4155-70

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