The Harvard neuroscientist who came under fire last month for stitching up baby monkeys’ eyes has been condemned again by her colleagues for another experiment in which baby monkeys were snatched from their mothers immediately after birth.
‘Motherly Love Triggers‘, the study published in September was conducted by Margaret Livingstone who removed the babies before the mothers woke up from anesthesia to see how the adult monkeys would react.
The problem raised by scientists and animal rights activists is that the babies not being cared for by the mother have long-term effects, including excessive fear, aggression and abnormal reproductive behavior.
A letter Signed by more than 250 scientists to PNAS, the journal that published the study, calls for the paper’s removal and criticizes Harvard Medical School for allowing experiments that “cause irreversible harm to young primates.”
Margaret Livingstone made headlines last month for previous research where she sewed up baby monkeys’ eyes shut for up to a year
DailyMail.com has reached out to Livingstone for comment.
The September study built on previous research that baby monkeys separated from their mothers form lasting attachments to inanimate surrogate mothers, as long as the ‘surrogate’ has a soft texture.”
And Livingstone and her team wanted to see if this was the same for mother monkeys.
The experiments involved a total of five different female monkeys, all of whom were removed immediately after birth and replaced with a stuffed animal.
Livingstone explains that three of the females adopted the stuffed animal and carried it with them for a week or several months, while the other two “showed no interest in toys or any fear after waking from anesthesia.”
However, an eight-year-old primiparous female rhesus monkey, monkey Ve, gave birth to a stillborn baby she carried on her chest — unaware she was dead.
Livingstone had to remove the lifeless body to be examined by vets while the mother was slightly sedated.
“When she recovered a few minutes later, she showed clear signs of anxiety: she made a loud and constant voice and seemed to be looking excitedly around her enclosure,” the study reads.
Now she’s under fire for an investigation in September where she removed young monkeys from their mothers immediately after they were both born to see how mothers would react
“Other monkeys housed in the same room also started vocalizing and becoming agitated.”
Again a stuffed animal was placed in the cage and the female calmed down almost immediately.
In particular, this controversy has sparked strong reactions in the scientific community, especially from animal behavior researchers and primatologists, said Alan McElligot of the Center for Animal Health at the City University of Hong Kong and a co-signer of the PNAS letter.
He told AFP that Livingstone appears to have conducted research by Harry Harlow, a notorious American psychologist, from the mid-20th century.
Harlow’s experiments with maternal deprivation in rhesus monkeys were considered groundbreaking, but may also have helped catalyze the early animal liberation movement.
“It just ignored all the literature we already have on attachment theory,” added Holly Root-Gutteridge, an animal behavior scientist at Lincoln University in Britain. This means that the
Livingston and Harvard, for their part, have vigorously defended the study.
Livingstone’s observations “could help scientists understand maternal bonding in humans and provide comforting interventions to help women cope with loss in the immediate aftermath of miscarriage or stillbirth,” Harvard Medical School said in a statement.
The experiments involved a total of five different female monkeys who were given toys after their babies were taken away. The problem raised by scientists and animal rights activists is that the babies not being cared for by the mother have long-term effects
However, this is not a welcome statement from other scientists and animal activists who are calling not only for the paper to be retracted, but also for Harvard to shut down the lab.
“Monkeys separated from their mothers exhibit excessive fear and/or aggression, produce excessive stress hormones, exhibit abnormal reproductive behavior and are often at the bottom of the social dominance hierarchy,” the letter reads.
It continues to explain that these babies exhibit excessive anxiety along with aggression and produce more stress hormones than those not taken from their mothers.
The letter continues to note sleep problems and self-harm have also been observed.
“We are asking members of HMS IACUC to reconsider the procedures followed in this lab and urge you to withdraw Livingstone’s consents to its experimental protocols involving primate babies, given the short- and long-term damage that could be caused.” they do to these monkeys and the likely adverse effect on research data,” the letter concludes.
A letter signed by more than 250 scientists to PNAS, the journal that published the study, calls for the paper to be removed and criticizes Harvard Medical School for allowing experiments that “cause irreversible harm to young primates”
Livingstone made headlines last month when it was discovered she had sewn the eyelids of baby monkeys shut in 2016 and 2020 in the name of studying vision disorders.
Livingstone declined to comment on the matter when asked by DailyMail.com, but shared a public statement denouncing the attacks, emphasizing that her lab “has not performed eyelid closures since the two isolated cases in 2016.” – she also states that the method “remains routine protocol in research labs studying vision disorders.”
The studies brought back memories of the baby monkey Britches who was rescued from the University of California, Riverside in 1985.
The monkey was removed with 700 animals during a nighttime raid, but members of the Animal Liberation Front discovered Britches had a sonar device on his head that gave a high-pitched screech every few minutes and bandages were wrapped around his eyes.
When the bandage was removed, the animal advocates discovered that his eyes had been sewn shut.
However, in Livingstone’s statement, she notes that in 2016 they “performed two reversible eyelid closure procedures in macaques using dissolvable sutures, as described in the peer-reviewed literature.
‘This procedure is also performed on human children and infants with certain eye tumors or to treat invasive eye infections.
‘Pediatric surgeons give these children anesthetics and painkillers.
“We’ve done the same with our young macaques to make sure they don’t experience pain.”