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network pathology and vivisection

P C Knox pck at castle.ed.ac.uk
Tue May 5 04:18:21 EST 1992

andrews at syma.sussex.ac.uk (Andrew Shires) writes:

>I'm about to start a dissertation on neural networks, and specifically in
>the area of network pathology.  I'd be interested in hearing of any work
>that's been done in this area, and if anyone has any real ideas on how best to
>simulate damage to a network.  I've heard of the Hinton and Shallice paper but
>that's about it.

>I am under the impression that biological data in this area is collected from
>willing human subjects who have suffered injuries, etc.  How much does this
>area rely upon vivisectory data?  I'd be uncomfortable about taking this work
>on if it involved the use of such findings.  Please, withold any flames about
>my being concerned about this, but I am quite happy to hear people tell me
>I can't get on in neural nets work if I'm unwilling to use such information.


>Andrew Shires, COGS, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, ENGLAND
>email: andrews at uk.ac.sussex.cogs    and    andrews at uk.ac.sussex.syma

No flames. I think you'll find that most folk (including myself)
involved in animal work appreciate the dilemas and are quite happy to
discus the issues flamlessly. I think the points made elsewhere about
the reliance of psychology and neurophysiology on animal work are right.
And by an large animals were not and are not used in a cavalier manner.
To understand the working of a system as complicated as the brain it
has, unfortunately, been necessary to use animals, to record from near
intact preparations, to make specific lesions and so on. Usually it is
possible by means of surgery, anaethetics, analgesics etc to ensure no
or minimal suffering. In fact, in studying the nervous system, this is
very important as a nervous system which is stressed will not operate
normally. So, it is in the experimenters professional interest to ensure
no or minimal suffering. You don't even have to believe we're "nice"
people; only that we have a desire to be good at our job! Bear in mind
too that a lot of research relevant to neural nets is done on simpler
animals, invertebrates such as insects and crustaceans. Here, the
rampant anthropomorphism which so marks these discussions breaks down.
But even here, where it is not clear what suffering means, precautions
will be taken. 
	So I sympathise with the dilemma. But examine the facts as
opposed to the propaganda (even including mine :-) !). But don't ignore
or undervalue a vast body of careful and important work for wrong
	I wish you success in you deliberations!

Paul Knox. 

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