Tag Archive | "human-like traits"

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Consolation, Trust and Empathy in Animals

Posted on 23 April 2016 by Jerry

Recent research points to shared capabilities among all mammals for consolation, trust, and empathy. It appears from the various studies that animals from prairie voles, highly monogamous zebra finches that mimic the stress state of their partner, and chimps all make friends, trust, and empathize with others.

A research study reviewed in the Science magazine, January 22, 2016 issue showed that prairie voles (rodents) exhibit a consoling response when other voles (cage-mates) in their environment are showing stress. An abstract of the study said “Consolation behavior toward distressed others is common in humans and great apes, yet our ability to explore the biological mechanisms underlying this behavior is limited by its apparent absence in laboratory animals.” This study was conducted using laboratory animals.

The study goes on to observe that the prairie vole, “greatly increases partner-directed grooming toward familiar conspecifics (but not strangers) that have experienced an unobserved stressor, provide social buffering. Prairie voles also match the fear response, anxiety-related behaviors, and corticosterone increase of the stressed cage-mate, suggesting an empathy mechanism.”

Frans De Waal, PhD was a co-author of this study that was conducted at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. He said, “Scientists have been reluctant to attribute empathy to animals, often assuming selfish motives. These explanations have never worked well for consolation behavior, however, which is why this study is so important.” Consolation behavior in the voles is when one animal experiences a calming contact with a distressed colleague.

Chimpanzees base their friendships on trust of a familiar animal. The Max Planck Institute conducted this study at the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Kenya for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. It found that opposed to common wisdom, the Chimpanzee environment is not filled with aggression, conflict, competition and dominance.

Chimpanzees are given a choice of using a friendship or “trust rope” or a “no-trust rope” to access food. An article appearing in the January 15, 2016 Christian Science Monitor described the research by stating “The no-trust rope yields immediate access to food that the chimp doesn’t particularly like. But if the chimp pulls the trust rope, a box of high quality food – chimpanzee favorites like apple and bananas – moves to its partner. The partner eats half, but is then faced with a decision.

The article continues by stating “A ‘trustworthy’ chimp will send the other half of the food back to its partner, while an ‘untrustworthy’ chimp will keep the food for itself.” Chimps “were significantly more likely to share with friends. So friendship, like many supposedly human concepts, may be deeply rooted in evolutionary history. Individuals with friends live longer, have more children and [have] lower stress-levels.”

Yet another research effort looked at Zebra finches who mate for life and consequently have a very close partnership with with their mate. Research shows they enjoy a great sympathy between each other. For example, the research as reported in the December 11, 2015 issue of Science magazine showed that a female, only exposed to stress in the birdcall of her mate, would shift her physiological state to match her partner’s level of stress.

At the same time research into the human brain shows consistency in the physical reaction to a highly altruistic act. Research shows that empathy-based altruism is characterized by a connection from the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) to the anterior insula (AI) that also invokes connectivity to the ventral striatum. This format in the brain always represents altruistic behavior.

The innate quality of caring for one another appears to cross all higher organisms from mammals to rodents to birds. Empathy and sympathy appear to be universal and something ingrained or genetic within everything. We need to realize this is an aspect of human beings that we need to accentuate. We should use these higher impulses as the standard to endorse a human being as having value. These are the impulses we should look for and reward in our leaders and ourselves.

Use the following links to gain additional information or access the original research that was used to write this article.

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/351/6271/375

http://esciencenews.com/articles/2016/01/21/discovery.consoling.behavior.prairie.voles.may.benefit.autism.research

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/350/6266/1371

https://www.mpg.de/9829733/chimpanzees-friendship-trust

http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2016/0115/Chimps-form-friendships-based-on-trust-The-banana-sharing-test

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/01/humans-chimpanzees-trust-their-friends

http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-chimpanzees-trust-friends-20160114-story.html

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/inkfish/2016/01/05/female-finches-get-stressed-just-hearing-voice-stressed-mate/#.VxKaehHSalU

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3388787/Birds-suffer-marital-strife-Female-zebra-finches-worked-hear-calls-stressed-mate.html

 

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , ,

Unregulated Chimeras Continue

Posted on 11 March 2015 by Jerry

Genetic engineers are again giving mice a sneak peek at human existence.  The series of experiments continue with engineers marrying human brain tissue with the brains of a mouse. The question is what do we expect to learn and how many genetic engineers can repeat the same experiments to what end?  Do we not know that human brain cells or brain tissue injected into mice brains significantly enhances their memory and problem solving abilities?

The most recent research projects involved use of the FOXP2 gene that in humans is linked to the difficulty of forming words.  As part of the research it was discovered that there was a difference between this gene in humans and those in chimpanzees.   This subtle difference is thought to be one of the keys to the development of language capabilities in humans as opposed to chimpanzees.

This initiated a series of experiments by various researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig Germany.  One group of researchers put the human version of the gene in mice brains.  They showed that the “humanized” mice had greater complexity in their calls of alarm to other mice and much greater frequency of these calls.

A subsequent study dealt with the straitum, a part of the mouse brain.  This is the region of the brain that is involved in the rate of learning in mice.  The issue that was raised was would the human FOXP2 gene affect the rate of learning in mice.

This study looked at both types of learning; consciously breaking a task into its constituent parts and the habituating of activity so that the sequence of tasks becomes an unconscious repetition.  For example, the study showed that humanized mice performed faster than normal mice in mazes that involved both types of learning.

Of interest, the performance was the same in mazes where just one type of learning was involved.  It was felt the advantage of the humanized mice was they were much quicker to habituate repetitive tasks than the normal mice.

This follows research of Steve Goldman that use Glial cells (thought of as junk genes that support the human brain) to see if the genes could boost mouse intelligence.  An article in the High Tech Society states, “Previously, he inserted fully grown Glial cells into an adult mouse, and watched as their intelligence and memory leapt off the charts.”

The article continued, “He experimented with mouse pups, using immature glial cells from donated human fetuses.   Each mouse pup received over 300,000 immature glial cells, which, inside of the mouse brain, quickly matured and took over for the mouse glial cells, multiplying to some 12 million, and completely replacing the native cells.  Adult mice who had received this transfusion exhibited memory capacity of about 4 times that of an ordinary mouse.”

The point is that these experiments are repeated hundreds if not thousands of times by researchers who are on a learning curve or hope to get a different outcome from each experiment.  It multiplies considerably the odds that a humanized mouse or mice may find a way to the wild and cause incalculable harm to our environment.

Imagine the difficulty we would have catching and killing such a humanized mouse.  Its reactions would be different.  It could learn different strategies to try as it infests the human environment.  It would react in more effective ways to other predators that would hunt it (e.g. cats).

These experiments with mice are today the only public source describing experiments that are underway.  Other experiments that mix the genes of disparate species of animals are taking place out of the public view.   These and these mice experiments are what we need to regulate and control.

Other than NIH funded projects where experimenters have to adhere to government mandates these experiments continue to have only self-imposed regulation.  Our government continues to take a hands-off policy to regulating these types of experiments.  That would change in a nanosecond if one of these experiments went awry and one of these humanized animals gained access to our environment.

Government regulation, control and oversight are necessary.  As the previous article about synthetic biology states, this regulation needs to be consistent and worldwide in scope.  This is the only way to minimize the risk to those who inhabit the planet.

Use the following links to obtain more information or access the source documents for this article.

http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2014/09/human-speech-gene-can-speed-learning-mice

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn26216-human-language-gene-makes-mice-smarter.html#.VOjzi1qykUU

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2014/09/16/mice-smarter-single-human-gene/#.VOj0gVqykUU

http://thehightechsociety.com/human-genes-used-to-make-mice-smarter/

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , ,

Ongoing Battle For Sentient Animals

Posted on 12 February 2014 by Jerry

Researchers have identified a group of animals that have greater intellectual and emotional faculties, for example human beings, elephants, porpoises, great apes, and a family of birds known as Corvids.  (See Beyond Animal, Ego and Time Chapter 6, Human Uniqueness).  Society tries to protect human beings while some animal activists try to protect these other species, more lately the great apes.

After considerable progress, activists are pleased they’ve all but stopped experimentation on great apes in the U.S.   Recall the National Institute of Health (NIH) ended the use of chimpanzees in NIH funded research laboratories.  It has retired the majority of its 360 chimps used in medical research.  In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed making all wild and domesticated chimpanzees subject to the terms of the Endangered Species Act.  Although skirmishes continue in the U.S. the public pressure remains.

The situation in the European Union (EU) is marked by continuing controversy.  The EU issued a directive regarding medical research using non-human primates like chimpanzees.  While the 2010 EU directive was thought to give balance to the issues of minimum animal welfare, intensity of pain to be inflicted and ended most research involving great apes, it contained a provision that explicitly allowed ongoing research with great apes.  It said that research could continue if researchers could not use any other species of animal.

Activists perceived this was somewhat of a loss with EU governance groups and have now redirected their efforts to the local political level.  The EU directive required member states to enact these rules by the start of 2013.  It also said these states could not ‘gold-plate’ the regulations by making the state’s law stricter than the EU directive.  Activists have delayed adoption of the directive in several states and are getting cities and municipalities to pass new restrictive laws and regulations to defeat the spirit of the directive at the local level.

In addition there is a petition that began to be circulated in the EU in November of 2012 that already has over a million signatures.  These signatures are being validated.  If they prove genuine, the European Commission and Parliament must hold hearings.   This would lead to another round of open and public debate on the issues.

Now another frontier has been opened up in the saga to protect chimps and great apes in the U.S.   A group called the Non Human Rights Project has filed court suits looking to free four chimps from their captivity.  The intent is to acquire “legal personhood” for these animals.  While New York lower courts denied the suits, they are collectively on appeal.

An article entitled Lawsuits Seek ‘Personhood’ for Chimpanzees in the December 2013 issue of Science magazine identifies Boston attorney, Steven Wise, as one of the people leading the charge.   “In 1993, Wise attempted to sue on behalf of a dolphin that had been transferred to a Navy facility, but the judge ruled that, as nonpersons, animals don’t have the legal “standing” to sue.  (More recently, a federal judge dismissed a 2011 lawsuit by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals when it tried to argue that Sea World had violated the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by keeping orcas as “slaves.”).”

It is doubtful American courts will grant ‘personhood’ to nonhuman primates anytime soon.  These efforts however, maintain the pressure on society to recognize there are species of animals that are much closer and have similar cognitive and emotional capabilities to humans.  This should lead to greater adoption of laws and regulations that at least create new categories of rules to take their awareness into account.

Use the following links to obtain more information or access the source documents used to prepare this posting.

http://www.nature.com/news/biomedicine-the-changing-face-of-primate-research-1.14645

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/342/6163/1154.summary?sid=3efaff36-1beb-48fc-b483-465cc7f49507

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/12/chimpanzee-personhood-nonhuman-right/

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/where-do-nonhuman-mammals-fit-in-our-moral-hierarchy/

http://science.time.com/2013/12/10/courts-say-chimps-arent-people/

 

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , ,

“Bird Brain” Not an Insult, Chimps Freed

Posted on 23 August 2013 by Jerry

Calling someone “bird brained” used to be an insult but that is changing. Although their observed physical reactions are the same, new brain PET scans of birds demonstrate crows react differently when viewing various threats.  In an experiment birds were injected with a die that left traces of brain usage, they were shown various threats, anesthetized and given PET scans to see which areas of their brain had been activated.  When watching a researcher wearing a mask sitting with a dead crow in his lap they activated their hippocampus and cerebellum, the learning and memory areas of their brains.  This was different from their reaction to seeing a hawk, a traditional threat.

Researchers believe the differences came from the bird’s intent.  John Marzluff, a wildlife biologist at the University of Washington in an article appearing in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B when discussing the masked person with a crow in his lap said, “The crow wasn’t just responding to a danger when he was watching you.  He was learning the features of your masked face.  That’s why we think his hippocampus was activated.”  This and other characteristics of sentience have prompted behavioral researchers to call crows, belonging to the Corvid family, “feathered apes”.

As reported in a July 2013 issue of PLOS ONE, a team led by Alice Auersperg at the University of Vienna demonstrated that captive cockatoos were capable of sequential step-wise problem solving.  In an experiment, when confronted with a series of five locks that had to be unlocked to allow a bird to get to a visible treat, all ten birds figured out the solution to this sequential problem and successfully adjusted their behavior when the locks were sequenced in a different order or removed entirely.

Other research showed that New Caledonian crows share the same capabilities as ravens, African gray parrots and keas (a New Zealand parrot), all of which can all solve the problem of getting a treat hanging out of reach from a perch using the same stepwise method.  The article previously mentioned in the Proceeding of the Royal Society B described the experiment and said “They pull up the string with their beak, then step on the segment with their feet, freeing their beak to pull up more of the string, and so on, until they reach the treat.”

This article also references a 2004 report where an international team of neurobiologists and ornithologists stated “the brains of birds have structure, including an advanced forebrain, that are analogous to those of mammals.”  Once again the research is expanding the scope of animals and birds that have sophisticated problem-solving intellect.  We have been slow to learn the lesson that we are not the only animals that can think the way we do or feel the complex emotions we feel.

There is an exceptional article that appeared in the July 2013 issue of Scientific American entitled When Animals Mourn that describes research indicating that we share our mourning the death of one of our kind with dolphins, elephants, giraffes, gorillas, cats and mallard ducks.   This speaks to the widespread nature of love and mourning in the animal kingdom.

Turning to the role of chimpanzees, the closest human relatives with which we share 98% of our DNA, it was predicted in an earlier posting on this blog (see NIH Moves Chimps From Chumps to Champs in December of 2011) that is was clear the National Institute of Health (NIH) would progressively end the use of chimpanzees in NIH funded research laboratories in the U.S.  The NIH has now announced the agency will retire the majority of its 360 chimps used for medical research.  In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed making all chimpanzees, wild and domesticated, subject to the terms of the Endangered Species Act.

This means almost a complete end to what has been one of our most abusive behaviors.  Many people have come to decry the pain and suffering we have inflicted on these sensitive animals.  Research methods and alternatives now exist to make use of chimpanzees in medical experiments completely unnecessary and a thing of the past.  This represents meaningful progress for the human species.

Use the following links to obtain more information and/or see source documents:

http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/280/1765/20131046.abstract

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2f10.1371%2fjournal.pone.0068979

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/341/6141/22.summary

http://scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=when-animals-mourn

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/341/6141/17.summary

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/350936/description/chimps_in_captivity_may_soon_join_endangered_specief_list

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

They Are Real Human-Like Attributes

Posted on 06 April 2013 by admin

A perennial question within animal research is are we projecting human attributes onto chimps and apes or is their human-like behavior natural?  The results of a review of multiple studies appeared in the journal “Animal Behavior” and declared the behavior observed was not a projection, was real, and there was no evidence of researcher bias.  These results prompted Mark Adams, PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh U.K., to state, “(Chimpanzees) have the same social problems that we do, they want to make friends and find mates and sort of gain position within their society.”

Charles Darwin famously observed, “There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties….The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind.”  While our first study shows that primate researchers have not biased their results, the behavior of a chimp in Sweden shows an all too human-like deviousness.

Previous research in Sweden showed a chimpanzee at the Furuvik Zoo gathered stones from his enclosure that he threw at zoo visitors.  More recent research showed evidence the chimp is even more devious.  He hides his weapons stockpiles behind rocks and logs for future use and fashions projectiles with a combination of hay, mud and feces.  He keeps these stockpiles near the viewing area so as not to be seen approaching with a projectile but rather throwing one from close up so visitors have no opportunity to retreat.

Researcher Mathias Osvath, a comparative cognitive scientist and scientific director of Lund University’s Primate Research Station, was quoted in a May 18, 2012 posting by LiveScience.com as saying “The results indicate that he (the chimp) can anticipate behaviors of others who are not present in the situation where he makes his preparations.”

Reversing the process described above, researchers often look to animal behavior in an attempt to understand why humans evolved the behaviors they exhibit.  Even though only about 5% of mammals are monogamous, there is evidence of monogamy in mammals, including Humans, where both parents are needed to raise offspring.  Recent research on owl monkeys was reviewed by NationalGeographic.com in February of 2013.  It shows that monogamous pairs produce 25% more babies than monkeys in severed pairs.

Fernandez-Duque, a biological anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, observed “Call it love, call it friendship, call it marriage – there is something in our biology that leads to this enduring, emotional bond between two individuals that is widespread among human societies.” Larry Young, a behavioral neuroscientist at Emory University in Atlanta, credits our brain chemistry in his new book entitled “The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex, and the Science of Attraction”.  Young states our organs “have evolved the mechanism to produce an emotional attachment.”  He believes monogamous attachments are reinforced by the production of pleasure producing oxytocin and dopamine which causes feelings of exhilaration and happiness during intimacy between animals.

All of this information once again serves only to reinforce the validity of Darwin’s earlier observation.  Chapter Six – Human Uniqueness in the author’s book Beyond Animal, Ego and Time delves further into these topics.

Use the following links to obtain more information:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003347212001157

http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/18146336

http://news.yahoo.com/deceptive-chimp-hides-ammo-blasts-unsuspecting-zoo-visitors-161640789.html

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/02/130213-valentines-day-owl-monkeys-animals-love-science/

Comments (0)

Advertise Here
Advertise Here
December 2017
S M T W T F S
« Feb    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31