Jennah Green, a PhD student from Newcastle University’s Institute of Neuroscience and based at the MRC’s Centre for Macaques, is trying to develop new ways to assess the psychological wellbeing of rhesus macaques in research environments. Here she explains why it is so important to monitor monkeys’ welfare, and how improving animal welfare can lead to better science.
Macaques and a staff member at the MRC Centre for Macaques
My interest in captive primate welfare was first sparked when I became involved in the Monkey Sanctuary in Cornwall. As I helped to build enrichment equipment for the rescued monkeys’ enclosures, I learnt about their varying psychological states, and was inspired to work on improving the lives of animals in captivity.
I’m now bringing my background in conservation into studying how we can use animal behaviour to interpret and assess the psychological wellbeing of these animals, particularly primates. Read more
Andrew Jackson is a Wellcome Trust Research Career Development Fellow in the Newcastle University Institute of Neuroscience. He told Katherine Nightingale about research, part-funded by the MRC, which aims to decipher the brain patterns that control arm and hand function to help paralysed people.
Like many researchers who run their own lab, Andrew Jackson doesn’t spend as much time at the bench as he’d like. But he does get to spend the odd hour or two doing one of his favourite things — listening to brain cells.
“They become like old friends,” he says. “We’ve been able to track the same neuron over days, weeks and months and you start to get to know them quite well.”
There are important reasons for getting to know neurons. Andrew and his colleagues are hoping to use the knowledge they gain from listening in on the brain to allow paralysed people to control external devices such as prosthetic arms using just their thoughts. Read more
Macaques are non-human primates. They are used in medical research because many of their body systems — such as their immune and nervous systems — are similar to humans, making them good research ‘models’ for a variety of human conditions.
The UK has some of the most stringent regulations in the world on the use of animals in research. Researchers wishing to use these animals in their work must show that the research is possible in no other way, comply with stringent regulations and be granted a specific licence from the Home Office.
The Medical Research Council’s Centre for Macaques breeds rhesus macaques for use in medical research in academic institutions in the UK. Using macaques from the centre means that researchers and those who fund or regulate research can be sure the animals were bred in conditions that met high welfare standards.
In these films we look at why macaques are used in medical research, including an example of a neuroscientist who uses macaques to study how brain signals control movement, with the aim of helping paralysed people control external devices such as robotic arms or wheelchairs with their thoughts. We also look at how the animals are housed in the MRC Centre for Macaques, how their behavioural needs are met and efforts to make the transition from the centre to the research lab as stress free as possible. You can find out more about the use of animals in the MRC on our website.