Statement in Response to Concerns About Research at HMS

Harvard Medical School is deeply concerned about the personal attacks directed at scientists who conduct critically important research for the benefit of humanity.

The content presented on the PETA website is misleading and contains factual inaccuracies. The video, certain photos, and some of the behaviors described on the website are not from Dr. Margaret Livingstone’s lab, and descriptions related to her methods contain inaccuracies and exaggerations.

Research led by Dr. Livingstone continues to provide critical knowledge about vision, visual disorders, brain development and neurological disorders. Insights from Dr. Livingstone’s research in macaques have been instrumental in developing a clinical treatment for tremor, as well as for therapies for Alzheimer’s disease and a lethal brain cancer called glioblastoma that are now under clinical investigation.

Dr. Livingstone’s research on facial recognition has illuminated how deficits in certain brain regions may lead to disorders such as face blindness and certain social problems seen in autism spectrum disorders. Dr. Livingstone observations on maternal attachment can help scientists understand maternal bonding in humans and can inform comforting interventions to help women cope with loss in the immediate aftermath of suffering a miscarriage or experiencing a still birth.

The humane and regulated use of animal models in biomedical research remains indispensable for understanding the biological processes that give rise to disease, for designing new therapies and interventions to improve health, and for ensuring such treatments are safe and effective. Such knowledge has yielded numerous life-altering and life-saving treatments in human and veterinary medicine, including therapies for diabetes, polio, tuberculosis, organ transplantation, hypertension, cancer, and more. The treatment and eventual eradication of many diseases will be enabled by knowledge generated from research in animal models.

As they work to achieve that goal, Harvard Medical School scientists continuously strive to refine the use and care of animals, reduce the number of animals used in research, and replace animals with nonanimal models whenever possible.

As with all animal research conducted at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Livingstone rigorously follows applicable federal, state, and institutional policies and regulations that ensure the humane and safe care of and use of animals, including the Animal Welfare Act in accordance with USDA regulations and the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Animals. In addition, Harvard Medical School is accredited by AAALAC International, a voluntary peer-review accreditation program, in which research programs must demonstrate they meet the standards required by law, and are going the extra step to achieve excellence in animal care and use.

See Prof. Livingstone's personal statement on this matter.