National Anti-vivisection Society


National Antivisection Society

Institute of Neurology


NAVS undercover investigation 1995


Elisa, a monkey at the Institute of Neurology, had a steel headpiece of cannulae (tubes) and electrodes permanently bolted into her head. She was chosen because her species was described as having a, “generally docile and friendly nature...” During the experiment, Elisa was starved for 24 hours, then restrained by the headpiece, bolted to bars attached to the cage sides, for periods of up to four hours.

When the NAVS filmed and photographed Elisa, she would sit in her tiny cage carefully picking at the skin around the metal protruding from her skull.

The Home Office and the animal researcher describe this experiment as causing ‘moderate’ pain. In all, this series of experiments used 61 monkeys, 25 rats and 4 cats.

Yet researchers at two internationally-prestigious institutions had already questioned the relevance of mapping of the monkey brain when a detailed map of the human brain was needed, as well as the assumptions being made. These experiments have also been criticised by UK brain function researchers.



Alice, another monkey at the Institute of Neurology, who lived in a tiny cage which she repeatedly circled, her head hanging to one side. Much of the time she even seemed unaware of the NAVS undercover team filming her. This classic disturbed, ‘stereotypic’ behaviour indicated that Alice had been psychologically damaged by her deprived environment. Just look at her cage - closely - no dimension of more than a few feet; no bedding; no foraging materials; virtually no furniture; a harsh metal grid floor. Here’s how the vivisector described the way his animals are kept: the great majority of our animals are well-adjusted, and live in a pleasant and stimulating environment, in constant contact with their carers. He claimed that Alice arrived in his laboratory in this condition. A further investigation by the NAVS revealed that Alice had been supplied by Cambridge University.

Alice was said to be a companion for Elisa, but the monkeys could not touch each other; they could only possibly call from across the other side of the room; in fact, they are different species and would not normally meet in the wild anyway.

The Institute of Neurology simply ignored the housing guidelines laid down by the UK’s Home Office.


Migraine experiments on cats at the Institute of Neurology featured a theory called ‘spreading depression’, an experimentally-induced event in small animal brains which has never been seen in human patients. The relevance of this theory to human brains was discredited over 10 years ago after a 30 year clinical study in 1,000 patients. There is no animal model of human migraine.

Cats were also used in experiments on the nerves of the spine; in some, the spinal nerves of old cats (up to 15 years old) were cut or crushed to see whether the nerves would mend or die; other cats suffered damage to their nerves with diphtheria toxin.


Rats were filmed at the Institute with dialysis probes permanently implanted into their brains. The experiment was examining a drug which has already been given to 5 million patients worldwide; anything we wish to know about this drug in people should already be available from human studies.

The Institute has also used this method to study the effects on rats’ brains of the street drug, ecstasy.

Cat Experiments Suspended (briefly) at the Institute of Neurology.

In ‘Access Denied’ we questioned post-operative care for cats undergoing nerve experiments at the Institute of Neurology.

The NAVS Field Officer recorded the following events:

6.6.95: “After lunch I saw the cat who had been operated on...He had a shaved strip on his back and a long cut stitched together...He was groggy and moved unsteadily and seemed to be bewildered...I was told he had been operated on in a sciatica investigation."

8.6.95: “...there was a minor panic over the cat who had been operated on on Tuesday. He had taken a turn for the worse, and L (Senior Technician) and W were trying to contact the licensee to get permission to kill him. I went into the theatre and saw what I thought was a dead cat. Looking closer, I could see the ribs moving weakly and, later, I saw the eyes look up at me and respond to my movement. The licensee wasn’t available so his deputy was being called by W, when L decided to kill him anyway. First, she tried to inject him in the leg, but couldn’t find the vein. She turned the limp, moribund cat over. The whole side he had been lying on was wet. W suggested he had tipped his water bowl over. L tried again with the injection, then got the gas anaesthetic for an overdose. She had a mask over the end of the tube, which she placed over the cat’s face. The breathing became less regular with an occasional heaving in the ribs, then eventually failed completely...a post mortem showed a haemorrhage in the stomach which L thought may be caused by a reaction between the vaccination he had received recently and the drugs connected with the operation."

21.6.95: “The sciatica operation on the female cat has turned out in a similar way to the previous one. There was a longer gap between the vaccination and the procedure, but the cat is very much on the edge. She isn’t eating at all, and is very unresponsive. Euthanasia has been discussed already."

22.6.95: “The post-op cat is still in a bad way. She has been given morphine as a painkiller."

23.6.95: “The post-op cat was put down at 6pm yesterday. She was not getting any better. She will be post-mortemed."

27.6.95: “The early signs from the post-mortem on the cat in the sciatica study is that septicaemia is the cause of death, which was due to poor technique". (NB: The Home Office Inspector was visiting for most of this day.)"

The Home Office later claimed: “The programme of work involving cats at the Institute of Neurology was reviewed by the Home Office: the science was found to be sound and the protocols were as refined as possible. The standard of performance of the procedures was reviewed and no breached of licence authorities were found". “Two post-operative cats were humanely killed to prevent further suffering. All work was suspended until the cause of the problems could be identified. The named veterinary surgeon had been consulted by the project licence holder at the time and the animals had been appropriately cared for. The causes of the unexpected level of suffering related to technical problems with the procedure. Subsequently, changes to the vaccination policy, suggested but the named veterinary surgeon, resulted in no recurrence."

But the Home Office never responded to the questions put to them (in March 1996):

Why was the licensee not overseeing the cat after such a serious operation?

Was this project classed as a ‘severe’ procedure?

Was the Home Office Inspector aware of these incidents?

For a copy of the full investigation report, click here:

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