Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mice Feel Pain (We knew That) - And Show it Like We do ("No One" Knew That)

"Mice Show Pain on Their Faces Just Like Humans"
Wired Science (May 10, 2010)

"Mice in pain have facial expressions that are very similar to human facial expressions, according to scientists who have developed the 'mouse grimace scale.' The pain expressions of mice could help researchers gauge the effectiveness of new drugs.

"People have been using similar facial-expression coding systems in babies and other humans who are unable to verbally express their pain. 'No one has every [!!] looked for facial expression of pain in anything other than humans,' said Jeffery Mogil of McGill University, co-author of the study published on May 9 in Nature Methods.

"Most pain drugs fail in human trials, because pain-drug effectiveness in rodent trials is based on sensitivity to touch, which is not a good indicator of spontaneous pain, Mogil says. The mouse grimace scale adds another way to catalog pain and pain mitigation in laboratory animals.

" 'This is a true measure of spontaneous pain, a measure that was derived from the analogous human scale,' said Mogil. 'If pain researchers would adopt this, we could get more accurate translations [of drug effectiveness] to humans.'..."

"No one has every [!!] looked for facial expression of pain in anything other than humans"

I've sometimes felt that someone should take scientists and learned professors on field trips to the real world at regular intervals. It might frighten or upset them, at first: but I like to think that they could learn from exposure to something besides their own books and research.

Hats off to the Wired Science writer, BTW. In addition to the usual homage paid to Darwin, there's ample evidence that J.W. has not only observed humans in their natural setting - but had time to become acquainted with the creatures' habits.

"...To pet owners and Cute Overload readers, the discovery of facial expressions in other mammals won’t come as a surprise. It also wouldn’t have surprised Charles Darwin, who predicted that all mammals express emotion through their faces in his 1872 book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. His book also theorizes that these facial expressions are evolutionarily conserved...."


I don't think that the cats I grew up with were people, or that chimps should have the right to vote. On the other hand, looking at what members of Congress do - but that's another topic.

There's a more to the article - both about this breakthrough discovery that mammals act like mammals, and related topics.

Experimenting on Animals?! How Could They?

I like animals. I think baby chicks are cute. I also think it's a good idea that we've got medical options other than abandoning those who can't keep up when the family moves.

And, although I prefer not using them, I'm very glad we've got pain management techniques.

Right now, trying out a medical procedure on a living creature is the only way of telling whether something that looks good on paper actually works. For that sort of testing, we've got two basic options: use
  1. A human
  2. An animal that's a little like a human
For medical techniques intended for use on humans, the most reliable results come from tests on other humans. From a strictly utilitarian point of view, it's best to use disposable humans. People who won't be missed by the 'right sort.'

Remember the U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee? That wasn't an isolated case. For example, the National Socialist experiments in Germany were conducted while the 1932 - 1972 Tuskegee study was being supported by American tax dollars.

That comic-opera 'mad scientist' in the B movies? Weird histrionics aside -folks like that exist. I've put a (for me) short discussion of this sort of thing, with a few links, at the end of this post.

I don't like the idea of mice getting migraines: but since pain is a reality in human experience - I think it's a good idea to learn better ways to control it. And yes: there's an ethical component to this. More at the end of this post.

Related posts:
I'm a Catholic. If you follow my blogs, you may already know that. If not: you've been warned.

How Can I Possible Stand in the Way Of Progress and Science / Allow Cute Critters to Suffer? / Not Agree With [Whoever]?!!

Good questions. I've discussed bioethics, and what I think about using people as experimental animals - without telling them - in another blog:Experiments on Animals? Check out that 'rules about animals' post, above. It's because we're in charge that we must act responsibly when we use animals - or anything else.

About experimenting on human beings? Finding a volunteer who's crazy or desperate enough to be fiddled with isn't good enough. "...Experimentation on human beings is not morally legitimate if it exposes the subject's life or physical and psychological integrity to disproportionate or avoidable risks...." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2295) Deciding what's "disproportionate" is where it gets tricky, of course.

More (there's always more):


Brigid said...

Missing an end quote: "the 'right sort."

And I agree, scientists really need to get out more. (Yet another 'well, duh' from the best and brightest.)

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...


Got it, fixed it, thanks!

As you said, 'well, duh.' On consideration, though, I've thought that there might be a medical - neurological, specifically - explanation.

Here's part of a discussion of Asperger syndrome, or AS: "...Children with AS want to know everything about their topic of interest and their conversations with others will be about little else. Their expertise, high level of vocabulary, and formal speech patterns make them seem like little professors...."
("Asperger Syndrome Fact Sheet," National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS))

I don't think it's such a big step from the "little professors" to the big ones. (I'm not talking about 'those crazy people over there:' I'm on medication for major depression, and getting screened for ADD and several other glitches this fall.)

I might be one of the "little professors" now, if the topic I was interested in wasn't everything, and I had more respect for American academia. That's another topic.

Back to professors, little and big. Children with Asperger syndrome have "problems with non-verbal communication" - which is then described from the point of view of an outside observer. (NINDS) A person with something like AS might, I suppose, have difficulty interpreting non-verbal communication, like facial expressions. ("I meant NO!!")

This might explain the stereotype computer nerd whose arcane knowledge is matched by his profound lack of people skills.

I doubt that this tantalizing possibility will be pursued. In this culture, it's the professors who would initiate the research: and they're not likely to see themselves as abnormal, aside from being smarter than other folks.

Come to think of it, how many paranoid schizophrenics think they're crazy?

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