Animal Research & Animal Protection
In order to understand how the brain works, some of our experiments are done using laboratory animals. Till April 2017 we conducted research on mice, rats and rhesus monkeys. At present, mice and rats are used exclusively. We are conscious of the great responsibility that we bear when we engage in animal research. But we are convinced, that the benefits from our research substantially outweigh the ethical reservations about the use of animals in research. Often, basic research does not immediately lead to applications – but it supplies the prerequisite knowledge that make innovations in medical technology possible in the first place.
Reduction of Animal Experiments (3R - Refine, Reduce, Replace)
The Max Planck Institute is committed to keeping the number of animal experiments and the discomfort they may cause to an absolute minimum. For this reason it is one of our paramount goals to continue to improve and refine our research methods. We employ the most modern functional magnetic resonance imaging techniques available to create a precise map of the brain of each research animal. With the aid of these images we are able not only to improve the skull implants, but to achieve high precision in the placement of recording electrodes in the brain regions involved in a particular cognitive task. This leads to a substantial reduction in the number of experiments needed per animal as well as the total number of animals used in each study. In spite of all of these efforts, it is simply not possible at present to completely replace animal experiments using rhesus monkeys with an alternative model.
Conduction of Animal Experiments
The German Animal Welfare Act stipulates that for every scientific question researchers must always use the most primitive animal possible (from the standpoint of sensory physiology) with which that question can be addressed. Since it is not ethically justifiable to carry out electrophysiological studies on healthy humans, we employ non-human primates.
Animal research at the MPI for Biological Cybernetics is subject to strict internal and external monitoring. Before any animal research is carried out, an application must be submitted to the appropriate regulatory agency, which is advised by an independent animal welfare commission. This commis-sion weighs the projected benefits of the research against its effects on the animals. The members of the regulatory agency have constant access to the experimental facilities and animal quarters. On site, a number of animal welfare officers are in charge of internal monitoring. In addition, a team of experienced veterinarians and animal caretakers ensure the best possible medical care and a species-appropriate environment for the animals. It is in the scientists’ own interest that their research animals feel comfortable, for only then will they cooperate and solve the very complex tasks that we give them to carry out.
For detailed information, please visit our website about our animal research.