Because there are some things you can't ethically test on humans, human medical research involves animal models. Such models are useful and important. There is a lot we wouldn't know—and a lot of people whose lives would be much worse—if it weren't for these animals.
That said, animals models are not perfect. Especially when it comes to relatively subjective problems like mental health. We test anti-depressants on mice. But how do you know whether it's working? After all, the mouse can't tell you that it's feeling better. And you can't really watch what the mouse does and see behaviors directly relatable to the human experience of depression, either. (Does the mouse feel more like going to his job and interacting with his friends today?)
At Scientific American Mind, Robin Henig explains the three commonly used tests that give scientists a glimpse into the mouse psyche. These are flawed proxies. Given the very real questions about how effective anti-depressant drugs actually are, it's worth putting some effort into developing better ways of monitoring their effectiveness in animals. But, for now, this is what we have to go on.
Forced swimming test. The rat or mouse is placed into a cylinder partially filled with water from which escape is difficult. The longer it swims, the more actively it is trying to escape; if it stops swimming, this cessation is interpreted as depressionlike behavior, a kind of animal fatalism.
Find out about the other two tests at Scientific American Mind
Image: Mouse, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from iboy's photostream
David Robinson used the data from the 28,657 people who self-selected to take the Stack Overflow survey to investigate the relationship between programmer pay and the conventions of using either tabs or spaces to mark indents, and found a persistent, significant correlation between using spaces and bringing home higher pay.
It’s the end of an era, sort of: Fraunhofer IIS, the developers of the MP3 audio compression format, announced that they are ceasing their licensing program. In a blog post, spokesman Matthias Rose says that it’s had a good 20-year run and is obsolete. But it’s also true that the decoding patents expired last year, […]
Freddy deBoer writes that he’s been telling the same joke for years about Silicon Valley’s only product, which might be universalized as “At last, a way to verb with nouns on the internet!” But the social-media techopoly is stable, now, and so the venture capitalists have moved on to the three terrible trends that will […]
As the old saying goes, “You should sit in meditation for 30 minutes every day. Unless you are too busy, in which case you should meditate for an hour.” Since most of us have an endless list of things to do and people to see, carving out quiet time can feel impossible, especially when most […]
The Bragi Dash Truly Wireless Smart Earphones are far more than your run of the mill Bluetooth earbuds. While the earpiece design makes these earbuds ideal for exercise and activity, and passive noise cancelling is conducive to a more serene listening experience, these buds go well beyond just playing music.First of all, they can actually […]