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Worked in a monkey lab?



Michele Basso

In 2003, Basso ran into problems when she decided to repair one of the head caps she had bolted to a monkey's skull. The monkey had complications as Michele fiddled with the head wounds. She didn't have a key to the first aid cabinet and the monkey died.

Then other monkeys started dying. An internal investigation revealed that when she screwed the head caps to the monkeys' skulls, she sometimes picked up the wrong screw or drove the screw into the monkeys' skulls too deeply. They developed brain abscesses.

Basso claims that nearly everything she does in her lab is done to humans in hospitals. Maybe, but medical doctors get sued for malpractice or thrown out of the profession when they screw up like she has, and does.

Basso has claimed in a videoed public meeting that L-dopa, a drug used to treat Parkinson's disease which she claims to be studying was a direct result of monkey experiments. But L-dopa is the result of a very famous, much written about discovery made by studying the brains of Parkinson's sufferers who had died.

What Basso must not have known:

The discovery of the dopamine deficit in the Parkinson brain
Oleh Hornykiewicz

Early in 1959, a study was started, in Vienna, of DA [dopamine] in PD [Parkinson’s Disease] and normal human (postmortem) brain. Within a short period of time, we analyzed 17 adult control brains and 14 cases with various extrapyramidal (basal ganglia) conditions, including 6 cases with PD. Of the 14 pathological cases, only the 6 cases with PD showed a profound loss of DA in the caudate nucleus and putamen. This discovery, published in 1960, is today part of the firmly established textbook knowledge. The immediate consequence of this discovery was the initiation in 1961, also in Vienna, of therapeutic (i.v.) L-dopa trials in PD patients. These clinical trials demonstrated L-dopa’s unusually strong antiparkinson potential and established the concept of DA replacement, thus being the beginning of the L-dopa era of PD.

Public disclosure of Basso's ignorance and clumsiness must have upset her enough to strike back at her critics. She has claimed publicly that she has been targeted by animal rights terrorists. Her claims have been rebutted.

Basso began her vivisection career at the State University of New York at Stony Brook poisoning and mutilating rats in a series of experiments she claimed had relevance to Parkinson's disease.

The blink reflex abnormalities present in the 6 hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) lesioned rat model of parkinsonism mimicked those of the human with Parkinson's disease. (Basso MA, Strecker RE, Evinger C.  Midbrain 6-hydroxydopamine lesions modulate blink reflex excitability. Exp Brain Res. 1993;94(1):88-96.)

See also: Schicatano EJ, Basso MA, Evinger C. Animal model explains the origins of the cranial dystonia benign essential blepharospasm. J Neurophysiol. 1997 May;77(5):2842-6.

She began publishing her experiments using monkeys in 1997. A number of her papers are available on line:

Modulation of neuronal activity in superior colliculus by changes in target probability J Neurosci.1998.

Discharge properties of neurons in the rostral superior colliculus of the monkey during smooth-pursuit eye movements. J Neurophysiol. 2000.

Activation and inactivation of rostral superior colliculus neurons during smooth-pursuit eye movements in monkeys.
J Neurophysiol. 2000.

Neuronal activity in substantia nigra pars reticulata during target selection. J Neurosci. 2002. This was her first publication after coming to WPRC.

Modulation of gaze-evoked blinks depends primarily on extraretinal factors. J Neurophysiol. 2005.

Competitive stimulus interactions within single response fields of superior colliculus neurons. J Neurosci. 2005.

Most recently, probably as a result of her 2003 problems, details of her experiments have been criticized by a usually complacent oversight committee. Minutes from the September 11, 2006, Graduate School IACUC give some inkling of the grisly nature of Basso's work. The protocol being criticized is a renewal which calls into question whether the problems pointed out have been long-standing.

Meet Michele and visit her lab.

Michele's lab has blocked access to her university websites from Madison's Hidden Monkeys.

You will have to mannually copy and paste the following addresses into your browser: Her photo and description of her work: (She doesn't mention anything about her experiments on monkeys.)

From there, you can visit her lab page at:

Madison's Hidden Monkeys is a project of the
Alliance for Animals.