Animal research is irrelevant to our understanding of human mental health. Discuss.

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Animal research is irrelevant to our understanding of human mental health. Discuss.

Animal research has played a major role in answering fundamental questions in many areas of psychology. The need for animal testing to enhance human health research has been made evident by the work of Charles Darwin on the evolutionary link between animals and humans.

This essay will discuss whether animal research can improve our understanding of human mental health, more specifically mood disorders, and will consider both contributes and limitations of the application of animal models to study human disorders.

The evolutionary stance postulates that emotions are a universal feature developed during an evolutionary process that lasted thousands of years.

Research has shown that although humans public displays of emotions may vary depending on the social and cultural context, basic emotions such as joy and fear have a biological basis which is common to the whole human species.

This same biological basis is found in non-humans animals, especially in mammals, as evidenced by the work of Charles Darwin (Darwin, 2009 [1872], cited in Datta, 2010), which highlighted the similarities between humans and animals in their expressions of emotions.

Animal research have greatly contributed to our understanding of the brain structures involved in perceiving emotions; on this topic, Paul MacLean (1990, cited in Datta, 2010) proposed a 'triune brain model' suggesting that the brain had evolved in a series of three layers, adding complexity in brain functioning, including perception of emotions. The most ancient layers in evolutionary terms, the reptilian brain (that controls the body's vital function in response to a specific stimulus) and the limbic brain (whose main function is to record memories of experiences associated with specific emotions, and to influence our behaviour in response to these memories), are found respectively in reptiles and mammals, while the last layer, termed 'neocortex' (which underlies the brain's most complex functions, such as abstract thought and language), is a unique feature of the brain of humans and of its closest relatives, apes and monkeys.

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Given the biological affinity between humans and animals, it is unsurprising that animal research plays a major role in investigating the biological bases of behaviour in human mood disorders. During an experiment involving mice to test the efficacy of ADMs in treating depression and anxiety, Santarelli et al. (2003, cited in Datta, 2010) found that suppressing neurogenesis made ADMs ineffective, uncovering the crucial role of this process in the development of mood disorders.

Another experiment conducted by Mitra and Sapolsky (2008, cited in Datta, 2010) on rats has shed light on the correlation between stress and anxiety. Mitra ...

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