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Eli FennellMemberJune 27, 2022 at 12:13 pm
I should add, the problem of evolutionary task mismatch in animals has been explored within the conventional behavioral research fields, as well, and been found to be extremely important. As an example, you’ll often hear it said that lab rodents, if given three switches, one of which dispenses food, one water, and one a highly addictive drug (say, an addictive opioid), they will become so addicted and so enamored that they wiil keep pushing the drug button until they either die from the drug or from failing to eat or drink enough even though food and water are literally the push of a nearby switch away. It is said to have substantial ramifications for understanding addiction and recovery in humans. Well, this is true… if the lab rodents are tested under classical animal laboratory conditions, i.e. the kind of dry, sterile environment most people think of when you say the words “Research Lab”. BUT… other researchers, using an evolutionarily informed framework, investigated the hypothesis that these results are heavily driven by an evolutionary mismatch, whereby the only objects of interest and engagement in their environment are those three switches.
To test this, they gave the rodents the same testing condition, but in an artificial environment designed to resemble their evolutionarily natural environment (what is called the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness), they were significantly, and I mean overwhelmingly, less likely to develop addiction, display addictive behaviors, or die as a direct or indirect result of drug use. Moreover, they took rodents tested in the classical lab conditions, moved them into this simulated EEA, and there were rapid and remarkable rates of recovery and decline in death due to the use of the drug. Some animals did still become addicts, and some died due to the drugs, but far fewer, and the addicts tended to be less extreme and more moderated in feeding their addictions as well as satiating their more basic needs for food, water, stimulation, intraspecies interaction, etc…. So, while this does indeed have ramifications for understanding human addiction, what it points to is the exacerbating effects of modern civilization on this, especially given the enhancement over time of our drugs such as refinements in alcohol brewing or selective breeding of plants like the Poppy Plant or the Tobacco Plant to make the addictive components more potent. It also points to treatments for addiction that involve embedding patients within a more evolutionarily natural context for recovery.
Point being, animal testing in general is problematic when it isn’t evolutionarily informed. It may only be telling us about the specific responses to unnatural (with respect to the recurrent survival challenges for which the creature has adapted over its evolutionary history) testing conditions, just as the behavior of captive animals often only tells us the behavior of the captive animals and not how they would behave io the wild.