Pediatric psychiatrist Sujartha Ramakrishna describes a planned University of Wisconsin psychiatric experiment “to discover new therapies by dissecting and analyzing the brains of baby monkeys who have been intentionally traumatized.” Is such an experiment ethical, Ramakrishna asks in The Cap Times — and can it possibly lead to anything truly helpful?
“The researchers argue that it’s worth intentionally causing psychological trauma to a small number of nonhuman primates in order to help a large number of human psychiatric patients,” writes Ramakrishna. “As a pediatric psychiatrist who has treated abused and neglected children, I understand the allure of this intriguing idea. If there are indeed chemical pathways that can be altered to save traumatized children from debilitating symptoms of anxiety and depression, therapies based on this information could be lifesaving.”
However, Ramakrishna argues, pediatric psychiatry is as much art as science, while these researchers’ experimental “attempts to attribute the development of mood and anxiety disorders to a few specific physiological changes in the brain are based on a gross oversimplification of the complexities of a developing human mind.”
Ramakrishna also likens early intervention with psychiatric medications to “ordering a pre-emptive chemical strike on the developing brains of at-risk children” and argues that “the use of ‘preventive medication’ is a dangerously Orwellian approach.”
Dr. Sujatha Ramakrishna: Let’s not monkey around with kids’ brains (The Cap Times, September 17, 2014)