A news release from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, dated 30 July 2008

Posted on the 6th August 2008

Psychiatric Disorders in Chimps Subjected to Lab Experiments Parallel Those in Human Torture Survivors, Study Finds

American Physician Presents Data at the 22nd Congress of the International Primatological Society in Edinburgh; Findings Could Support EU Proposals to Ban Great Ape Experiments

WASHINGTON – An American physician who has evaluated human torture survivors will present evidence of startling parallels between psychiatric disorders seen in traumatized humans and symptoms displayed by great apes subjected to harmful laboratory experiments. At an international primatological conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, Hope Ferdowsian, M.D., M.P.H., will detail her findings, which have clear implications for proposals before the European Commission to ban the use of great apes and wild-caught primates in research. Dr. Ferdowsian has written to EC members in support of the proposed ban.

In a rigorously designed study, Dr. Ferdowsian and her co-authors evaluated behaviors displayed by 116 chimpanzees formerly used in laboratory experiments and found that 111, or 95.7 percent, of the animals demonstrated some form of behavior overlapping with human diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder. Many of the chimpanzees, who now live in a primate sanctuary in Louisiana, also show symptoms of depression, anxiety, and compulsive behaviors. These patterns of behavior have not been described in wild populations of great apes and signal the presence of disordered rather than adaptive behaviors.

‘The high prevalence of mental disorders we observed in these chimpanzees offer a new reason to support proposals to stop using great apes in laboratory experiments,’ says Dr. Ferdowsian. ‘We now know that a chimpanzee’s mind and emotional well-being are affected by experimentation in ways that parallel the psychological trauma experienced by victims of torture and other forms of abuse. It is critically important to ban experimentation on great apes.’

Dr. Ferdowsian, a practicing physician and director of research policy at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, will present Effects and Prevalence of Psychological Trauma in Chimpanzees in Captivity during the session ‘Welfare and Management: Captive Apes’ from 4 to 6 p.m. on 4 August. It will take place in the Kilsyth room of the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on Morrison Street. Primatologist D.L. Durham, Ph.D., Chimp Haven president Linda Brent, Ph.D., and psychologist Gay Bradshaw, Ph.D., are co-authors.

For an advanced copy of the abstract or an interview with Dr. Ferdowsian, contact Tara K. Failey, 001-202-527-7319 or tfailey@pcrm.org.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

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