Forced to suffer for science: From animal cruelty and experimental inefficiency to a change of perspective.

Finding Neuron

We, as scientists, have become desensitized to the pain, the distress and the physical and emotional damage that we inflict on laboratory animals. So much so, that we constantly find justifications for our cruel experiments in the goal of finding cures for the illnesses of our conspecifics, and in the rules and regulations that authorize these heartless procedures.

Despite ongoing widespread use of animal models in research, recently there has been extensive criticism on the state of drug development in psychiatry, calling for a switch from rodent behavioral pharmacology to mechanistic studies in cellular systems. In a recent paper, Heilig and colleagues argue that:

Overall, neuroscience has simply had very little impact on clinical alcoholism treatment. The situation is representative of a borader translational crisis in psychiatric neuroscience. Becausetranslational failures in this area have been the rule rather than the exception, pharmaceutical industry has largely retracted from efforts…

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no more doubts…

My heart’s fire is kindled,

while I stand here bewildered.

My hunger to explore,

my soul is embellished to its core,

feeding on my mind’s joyous screams,

while thinking of all it dreams.

 

My body quivers,

when I think of my potential future/s.

What’s next I am not sure,

but my passion makes me lure.

My love for life is new

and for once this doesn’t feel askew.

 

Looking down at what might have changed,

what I have gained,

for the first time, I didn’t think

I didn’t worry that I will sink.

I hear the world calling for me,

still anxious, but ready to see,

what my ambitions mean!

 

My mind is still fretting,

my conscious is still haunting,

my palms still sweat,

But now my fears don’t pose a big threat.

My world is mending

and I am not bailing.

 

For once my brain aligns with my heart,

while embracing my part

in the game of life,

now the feeling of love is rife.

Hopefully, I won’t start another bout

of self-doubt.

CONSCIOUSNESS

Epilepsy is now being cured by removing half of a brain of the patients. It was seen that later after recovery from the procedure, the patients’ other half recovered their ability to respond as a whole brain would. No function or reactions were altered. These results showed that the other half adapted the functions of the removed part. This discovery has led us to question even further that what if we were to remove half of a brain of an individual and somehow transplant it into another person, would that person develop same reaction thresholds and functional abilities? Would that person have the same consciousness as that of the person it was removed from? This sounds peculiar, doesn’t it? Two persons having same conscious behavior, same perspectives! This is when things get fascinating.
Interpreting the world as it is has led us to discover theories. We know we exist and we reason our existence because our mind forces us to do so. The Big Bang, Evolution, Darwinism, Planetary studies, Studying atoms etc. all these theories are devised because our mind questions its presence and position in the universe. We describe nature as exposed to the method of our questioning.

However, Neuroscientists are still trying to figure out what part of our brain controls our consciousness. The Neocortex is said to be the seat of imagination, empathy and impartial judgments, but deeper and complex areas in the brain seem to be responsible for our deep thoughts.
Past experience is an important contributor to one’s consciousness. Abstract drawings, feeling things that don’t exist and imagining are all part of our consciousness. Scientists say that often our physical response may come first, followed by the reaction of the mind.
“You can’t be nothing if you think you are something, even if something is nothing!”

Going a little deeper and while exploring consciousness, Raymond Joseph Teller, a magician, caught our attention. Teller said that every time you perform a magic trick, you’re engaging in experimental psychology.
What do the tricksters do?
Scientists began to think about saccades, movements of the eye that can precede conscious decisions about where to turn one’s gaze. Saccades are among the fastest movements produced by the human body, which is why a pickpocket has to trick them: The eyes are in fact quicker than the hands. It turns out though, that the pickpocket was onto something. When we see a hand moving in a straight line, we automatically look toward the end point—this is called the pursuit system. A hand moving in a semicircle, however, seems to short-circuit our saccades. The arc doesn’t tell our eyes where the hand is going, so we fixate on the hand itself—and fail to notice the other hand reaching into our pocket. The pickpocket has found a weakness in the way we perceive motion.
This shows that magicians trick our minds in such a way that we miss to see the obvious reason. It is, after all, just art, a game of mind and deception.

Another interesting topic to discuss while talking about consciousness is the case of a neurological disorder called Anosognosia.
Anosognosia is a deficit of self-awareness, a condition in which a person with some disability seems unaware of its existence. Anosognosia results from physiological damage to brain structures, typically to the parietal lobe or a diffuse lesion on the fronto-temporal- parietal area in the right hemisphere. When questioned about what seems like an obvious problem to us, the patient may avoid giving a direct answer or may give an explanation that doesn’t make sense. Similarly, patients with Hemi-spatial neglect may also fail to recognize paralyzed parts of their bodies. In other words, there is a partial loss of consciousness.
This shows that self-consciousness and self-awareness are crucial aspects of our daily lives, and how it’s dysfunction can be detrimental in the most fundamental ways of how the brain processes information.

Why are we conscious? How do we know we are conscious? Why did evolution need to develop this ability in us? These are some of the many questions the scientists are still pondering upon and so it still remains a mystery to some extent.
-For more on consciousness read about William James’ ‘The stream of consciousness’.

Offmymind

Sitting by the window,
wondering what this day will bring,
I sat down to sing,
my story, being vulnerable and strong,
I hope it won’t be long.

Everyone has a different struggle,
Someone strives to feed their family,
and other nurses their ill-beloved,
but one out of many struggles to wake up
to start again despite being fed-up.

All those nights and days
of wonder and dismay,
trying to find someone to confide in,
I may not have problems as big as yours,
I may not be suffering from any physical pain,
but am I trapped in my own brain?

All those nights and days  
when I just want to run away,
as far as possible, from the society and the people.
The society requires me to be what I should be,
not what I could be.

Try to put on a mask, a mask of joy,                                                                                                    the mirror, however, reflects a dull face,
I realize everyone’s world is moving at a faster pace,                                                                    I am stuck because I do not belong here
but out there somewhere.

Trembling and shaking,
my world’s quaking,
Who am I?
I am a voice of many,
but not a lot, I am lost in the crowd,
trying to express myself for the first time out loud.