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Denton on Hopelessness

February 27, 2012

Excerpted from The Pinnacle of Life: Consciousness and Self-Awareness in Humans and Animals by Derek Denton:

“Forty years ago, Richter studied the effects af severe stress in domestic and wild rats, the latter being fierce, savage, and suspicious creatures captured in the slums of Baltimore. He measured endurance when the animals were put in a swimming tank…A laboratory white rat woud swim for up to 24 to 48 hours, depending on the water temperature, and then could be taken out. But the wild rats dived to the bottom and nosed around the tank, then swam around further, surfaced, and mostly died one to ten minutes after immersion…Richter found that they died with a gradual slowing of the heart-an inhibition transmitted by the vagus nerve from the brain…Richter has proposed that the situation with the wild rat was essentially one of hopelessness.”

[Note: I personally oppose continuing animal research, regardless of any lessons that may be drawn from the past.]

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