Maternal and sensory deprivation experiments on monkeys at Harvard must end

In response to deeply disturbing and antiquated sensory deprivation experiments on baby monkeys at Harvard Medical School, CAARE has submitted a complaint to two federal oversight agencies to investigate.


These barbaric experiments can be easily replaced by non-animal methods and must end. Send your polite letter now to Harvard University, asking for the immediate cessation of these cruel and needless experiments.


Newborn and infant monkeys are separated from their mothers and deprived of sight for one year by sewing their eyelids shut, or by keeping them deprived of facial exposure by caretakers who wear welding masks. All this is done purportedly to study how the brain learns to recognize faces.

The babies are subjected to invasive brain surgeries, including having electrode arrays implanted into their skulls and coils into their eyes, while their distressed mothers are used to study the maternal separation response.

In antiquated, outdated and pointless experiments, the mothers and babies are given cloth “surrogate” implements for companionship.


The amount of torment experienced by these traumatized mothers and babies is extreme. One shocking federal report found that a desperate baby, seeking comfort from the cloth surrogate, ripped a hole in the device, stuck her head through it, and was strangled to death.

Last week, CAARE submitted a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS) and the National Institutes of Health Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW), alleging that Harvard Medical School failed to comply with the Animal Welfare Act and corresponding regulations. These regulations require researchers to thoroughly investigate alternatives to experiments that cause more than momentary pain and distress to animals.


In the complaint, CAARE details just some of the many non-animal alternatives that Harvard could have used to study how the brain processes face recognition, including sophisticated magnetic resonance imaging that can thoroughly explore the anatomy and function of the living human brain. Other brain imaging modalities and additional methods include functional near-infrared spectroscopy, magnetoencephalography computational methods, analysis of post-mortem tissue and more.


CAARE’s complaint urges the federal regulatory agencies to investigate and impose corrective action and appropriate penalties on Harvard Medical School for its failure to abide by these regulations, leading to extreme and unjustifiable animal suffering. 

Please send your polite letter to Harvard today to put an immediate end to these ruthless and worthless experiments on monkeys and instead conduct cutting-edge human-based research.

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  • Barbara Stagno
    published this page in Action Alerts 2023-05-24 13:31:31 -0400