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Into the Wild: Animal Experiments Through the Ages (Graphic)

By Frontiergap @FrontierGap

As we saw on Monday in ‘Into the Wild: Our Favourite Latin Animal Names’, the science community can be a strange lot! Today we take a look back at some of the most bizarre and shocking experiments conducted throughout history, all conducted for the furthering of science and learning.

Severed Dog’s Head (1928):

Into the Wild: Animal Experiments Through the Ages (Graphic)

Experiment

Soviet physician Sergei Brukhonenko is reportedly the first person to have successfully kept a severed head alive for a significant period of time, with the help of a self-made machine known as an ‘autojector’. The device was designed to supply the head (and brain) with everything it needs to continue ‘living’.

Results

The experiment was shown at the 1928 Third Congress of Psysiologists of the USSR. When questioned on the authenticity of the setup, Brukhonenko proceeded to conduct various tests as proof, including shining a light into the dog’s eyes, causing the head to flinch by hitting a hammer on the table, and lastly, feeding the severed head a piece of cheese, which then popped out of the other side of the head. The authenticity of the experiment is still understandably questioned today.

Two-Headed Dogs (1954):

Into the Wild: Animal Experiments Through the Ages (Graphic)

Experiment

Soviet scientist Vladimir Demikhov unveiled his two-headed dog to the world in 1954 to journalists from around the world. The experiment was celebrated by The Soviet Union as a demonstration of their scientific superiority.

Results

The ‘two-headed dog’, consisting of the head, shoulders and front legs of a puppy grafted onto the neck of a German shepherd, was seen to drink milk from a bowl (simultaneously). Due to complications with the process, none of the experiments (yes, he did it various times) survived for very long, with the record standing at approximately one month. Demikhov claimed that the work would one day allow him to be able to conduct successful lung and heart transplants. Unsurprisingly, Demikhov was a big influence on Professor White (see above).

Sexual Attraction in Turkeys (1962):

Into the Wild: Animal Experiments Through the Ages (Graphic)

Image courtesy of e³°°°

Experiment

Martin Schein and Edgar Hale of the University of Pennsylvania wanted to investigate the reputedly strong sexual tenacity of male turkeys. According to previous reports, the one-track mind of these birds had seen them attempt to mate with a life-like model of a female. Schein and Hale wanted to take this a step further by finding out the minimal stimulus needed to get a man-turkey in the mood for love by removing body parts one by one until attraction was lost.

Results

Even after the removal of the model’s tail, feet and wings, the male was undeterred, perhaps excited by the fact that he’d found a mate that couldn’t escape. Unbelievably, the turkey continued to show interest even when the model consisted of only a head on a stick. They then began looking at the effect of different heads, with most attraction resulting from a freshly severed female head, and least (but still some) coming from a plain piece of balsa wood.

Monkey-head Swap (1970):

Experiment

Professor Robert White from Cleveland, Ohio wanted to explore the possibility of head transplants by conducting experiments on monkeys. His attempt to transplant the head of one monkey onto another’s body was partially successful.

Results

Despite surviving the initial surgical procedure, the monkey eventually succumbed to complication from the process days later. However, the partial success saw Prof White conclude that his team had been able to "transplant the brain as a separate organ into an intact animal and maintain it in a viable, or living situation for many days." Although he admitted that the idea could be considered as “grotesque”, he suggested that ethical issues have been constant throughout the history of transplants. However, Professor White’s work has come under attack. Dr Stephen Rose, a specialist in brain and behavioural research at the Open University, said that "It's entirely misleading to suggest that a head transplant or a brain transplant is actually really still connected in anything except in terms of blood stream to the body to which it has been transplanted…It's not controlling or relating to that body in any other sort of way."

Human Obedience (1972):

Into the Wild: Animal Experiments Through the Ages (Graphic)

Image courtesy of -=RoBeE=-

Experiment

This experiment was conducted in 1972 by Sheridan and King in order to investigate the results of an earlier experiment into obedience suspected to have been faked. Replacing the original human subject with a puppy, the study saw participants administering electric shocks to the animal if it failed to stand in the correct place in reaction to either a flickering or steady light. The shock increased by 15 volts for every ‘wrong answer’. The dog’s reaction to the shocks is reported to have varied from a small bark to howling in pain.

Results

The results of the experiment are arguably more worrying than the process itself. Despite visible distress, 20 out of the 26 participants continued shocking the puppy up until the maximum voltage. The only 6 participants who refused to continue were all men.

Through the Eyes of a Cat (1999):

Experiment

This recent experiment was carried out by a team at the University of California, Berkley, led by Dr Yang Dan. Its purpose was to investigate sight and the possibility of converting brain signals into actual footage. The study involved connecting the vision processing region of a cat’s brain to a computer whilst forcing it to look directly at a screen showing various images.  

Results

Through a ‘linear decoding technique’, the team were able to create videos of what the cat was seeing, which were a slightly blurred version of the projected videos. It is thought that clearer images might be obtained by sampling more brain cells than the 177 sampled in the experiment. It is also known that visual signals go through significant processing in other areas of the brain which help with clarity. The results of the experiment could mean that one day recorded and even real-time footage of what a person is seeing could be viewed elsewhere.


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