Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fun With Animals

Professor Steven Pinker of MIT, in his bestselling book of 2002 The Blank Slate, shares the excitement of neuroscience, referring (p. 97) to “famous demonstrations that the visual systems of cats can be altered by experience during a critical period of development (by being reared in the dark, in striped cylinders, or with one eye sewn shut).”  Try it with Fluffy !

In neuroscience labs, the fun just never stops:

In experiments that the journal Science called “heretical”, Katz’s team removed one or both eyes from a developing ferret, depriving the visual cortex of all its input …

(Semantic note:  Whenever someone describes his own work  or that of an ally as “heretical”,  you may deduce that he is puffed up with his own gaseous emissions.)

Then he adds (spoilsport):

Knocking out a single gene can be more precise than the conventional techniques of poisoning neurons or slicing up the brain.

~     ~     ~

“Good morning, Mrs. Miller.  We’re from the neuroscience lab.  We’ve come for one of your twins.”
“I -- don’t understand…”
“Identical twins are useless for our purposes, unless reared apart.  Redundant, you might say.”
“I -- I just don’t know.”
“Please, Mrs. Miller, we know what we’re doing.  See these labcoats?  It’s for Science.”
“Oh, very well then;  take Bobby.   Now, which one is Bobby ?  Bo-bbyyy ! -- There.  There’s always the other one. -- But you do promise to find him a good home?”
“Actually, we were planning to raise him in a white cylinder with vertical stripes.”

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