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Brain research & monkeys

Leading neuroscientists from around the world have stated that non-human primates (NHP) remain ‘essential’ for our understanding of the brain and for continued biomedical progress.

The perspective piece, Visualizing advances in the future of primate neuroscience research, with authors including the outgoing EARA chair Peter Janssen, of KU Leuven, Belgium, Anna Mitchell, of the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, and EARA executive director Kirk Leech, concluded:

“At this moment in time, all evidence indicates that NHPs will continue to play a crucial role in the development of better medical care for patients, as they have done in the past in neuroscience and numerous other domains of medicine.”

In particular, they focused on the continued need for NHP in the implementation of emerging technologies, such as viral vectors, which can deliver drugs and treatments and allow brain pathways to be studied at an ‘unprecedented scale’, as well as gene editing techniques such as CRISPR-Cas9 to model human diseases in monkeys.

The authors said that NHP studies ‘offer true insights into the cognitive capacities of humans’ – citing examples such as object recognition, attention and planning. They also highlighted the major differences between the nervous system of humans and rodents that make these animals less suitable as research models.

The article, published in Current Research in Neurobiology, goes on to describe some of the current barriers to NHP neuroscience research, notably transportation issues, such as the NHP export ban by China.

It also called for a universal regulatory framework for NHP research, including defined ethical and welfare standards, to facilitate international research collaborations which must be ‘science-led, rather than political’.


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