As a neuropsychologist, I have a keen appreciation for the contributions of basic research with nonhuman animals to our understanding of the brain and behavior. Such work is not only central to basic research in experimental psychology, behavioral neuroscience and psychopharmacology, but has also led to important applications in a wide range of fields including clinical psychology (e.g., behavioral therapies), pediatrics (e.g., touch stimulation for premature infants), rehabilitation (e.g., enhancing motor function in stroke patients), human factors (e.g., vision and traffic safety) and, of course, clinical neuropsychology (e.g., animal models of dementia).
Psychologists and APA have long been interested in the well-being of research animals. The precursor to APA's current Committee on Animal Research and Ethics (CARE) was established in 1925. CARE's mission includes safeguarding responsible research with nonhuman animals, disseminating accurate information about such research, reviewing the ethics of such research and recommending guidelines for its ethical conduct, and protecting the welfare of nonhuman animals in research, teaching and practical applications.
In the United States, laboratory research with nonhuman animals is strongly regulated by the federal government to ensure it is scientifically valid and that animals are treated humanely. Of course, it is also the ethical obligation of researchers and their institutions to appropriately care for animals. According to Sara Jo Nixon, PhD, chair of APA's Board of Scientific Affairs, "The issue of continuing support for the conduct of ethical animal research is critical and will no doubt require ongoing attention."
Some groups are opposed to all research with nonhuman animals, and some have even threatened and harassed scientists and destroyed labs—a form of terrorism. APA has and will continue to condemn such acts and to speak out against such threats. I was particularly pleased that in August APA's Council of Representatives renewed this commitment when it adopted the "Resolution Reaffirming Support for Research and Teaching with Nonhuman Animals." The resolution emphasizes both the value of research with nonhuman animals and the need to pursue such research ethically. It notes, among other things, the many ways such research contributes to our understanding of cognitive, emotional and social processes and to the development of clinical interventions. This research not only benefits people, but also enhances the lives of nonhuman animals by improving animal care practices and guiding conservation efforts. I am proud of APA's continued leadership in supporting research with nonhuman animals.
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