Statement regarding sound localization research at UW-Madison

September 12, 2012

Allegations made today (Wednesday, Sept. 12) by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals about sound localization studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are unsubstantiated. At best, they are a gross misrepresentation of the research and the care and treatment provided to the animals in the study.

The research develops a better understanding of how the brain combines information from the two ears, including sound localization. Cats are used because of their extraordinary talents at localizing sounds. Feral cats likely do most of their hunting at night because that is when their rodent prey is most active. Because vision at night is limited, hearing is the primary sensory cue for the cat to localize its prey. The cat auditory system is very similar to that of humans, making it relevant to clinical studies of humans with bilateral cochlear implants.

The images from the UW–Madison lab were taken to document a surgical technique for bilateral and unilateral cochlear implants. The surgery depicted in the images mirrors the procedures done in human patients receiving cochlear implants, and is done according to the same standards of care and minimizing discomfort that occurs when humans undergo the surgery. The implant shown on the cat is essentially a cochlear implant engineered in a way so that it remains in place.

UW-Madison takes its responsibility for the humane use of animals in research with the utmost seriousness. Alternatives are used whenever possible and all research is subject to strict regulations governing animal care and comfort. Every effort is made to meet both the letter and spirit of those rules.

For more on animal research at UW–Madison, click here.