September 21, 2019

Is It Ever OK to Experiment on Animals?

“The rat sat still in the middle of her cage, moving only in response to my touch, and even then only as if in slow-motion. My subject, GRat66, was a few months old, and except for her long bare tail, fit neatly into my palm a few minutes earlier, when I injected a few drops of a potent opiate under her skin, near the belly. Now, her beady black eyes bulged as she faded into an opiate stupor.

I was preparing to implant minuscule electrodes into the rat’s brain. The opiate would serve as an analgesic before, during, and after the surgery. It was the fall of 2018 and I was hoping the results of the surgery would help answer some questions that had been tormenting me as I embarked on the sixth year of my Ph.D. in neuroscience. How do the parts of the brain controlling movement interact with those responsible for visual sensation? Why do neurons in the visual areas jolt to action when an animal moves, even in the dark?

I placed GRat66 into an anesthesia-induction chamber, a small plastic box connected to a vaporizer that dispenses the anesthetic, isoflurane. After she was sufficiently knocked out (I pinched her toes to make sure the withdrawal reflex was gone), I placed her into a stereotax, which serves to hold the head steadily in place and provides a flow of isoflurane into her body throughout the operation. I then injected a half a milliliter of lidocaine under the rat’s scalp, which swelled with the local anesthetic’s volume. Dressing myself in a sterile gown, face-mask, and gloves, I proceeded to cut across the length of GRat66’s scalp, exposing the thick ivory-colored skull underneath the pink and bloody skin and shiny white fat.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Picks

"Blackface. I’ve been writing about, and researching – and opposing – racism for more than thirty years. And make no mistake: blackface isn’t funny. It’s racist. Ask Megyn Kelly. A year ago, the former Fox News star was filming a segment about..."

"Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s “selfie line” may be a “political phenomenon,” according to CNN, but it’s also a misnomer, twice over: The photos that supporters end up with aren’t technically selfies—campaign aides snap them—and no one waits in a line..."

"In the archives of the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York, there is an old postcard from the city aquarium of a large sea turtle with four boys straddling its back. The turtle lies flattened upon a pathway in front of a fence. At the feet..."

"As we celebrated my granddaughter’s third birthday this summer, I made the following rough calculation: I’d trekked from my home in New Jersey to her Brooklyn apartment roughly 150 times to provide once-a-week day care, plus other times as needed."

"That seems to be the emerging bipartisan consensus. “On the evidence we have, the meritocratic ideal ends up being just as undemocratic as the old emphasis on inheritance and tradition,” writes New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. “Our..."

"It was the 2019 Pet Sematary that finally broke me. Was this really necessary? I seethed in a theater earlier this year, at a loss for why anyone would green light a self-serious update to a 30-year-old so-bad-it's-good movie. "Update," even, was.."

"Tuesday was election day in Israel. But no winner has yet been declared. As of this writing, it appears that the parties committed to supporting Benjamin Netanyahu for prime minister will not win a majority in Knesset. At the same time, the..."

"The last time Netflix asked me “Are you still watching?” I had to think really hard about it. Was I still watching? Or at least enough to make my $16-a-month payment worth it? The subscription economy can be a wonderful thing. We don’t have to..."