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OHSU statement on PETA trial decision

OHSU and other premier biomedical research centers around the world strongly believe that faculty should have the right to perform research -- and to keep confidential such research and related research data – at a minimum, until published in peer-reviewed publications.

Because discoveries often occur in phases, a single research protocol can result in several peer-reviewed publications over the course of many years. Consequently, OHSU asserted under Oregon Public Records Law that research analyses and related writings are protected and not subject to disclosure until, at a minimum, such time as the research is completed and all relevant findings have been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The PETA public records lawsuit sought to acquire research videos pertaining to ongoing or planned research. The judge has determined that 74 research videos, from which an analysis and description of behaviors observed has been included in peer-reviewed publications, must be released to PETA. 

The other 3,000 requested videos, from which analyses have not been published, are exempt from disclosure.

The videos to be released contain research conducted by Elinor Sullivan, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Division of Neuroscience at the Oregon National Primate Research Center at OHSU, and an associate professor of psychiatry in the OHSU School of Medicine.

Sullivan’s research examines the influence of a maternal high-fat diet on the behavior and physiology of nonhuman primates, tightly controlling and monitoring their diet in a way that would be impossible in a human population.

The published findings revealed behavioral changes in the offspring whose mothers consumed the high-fat diet such as increased anxiety, which was associated with impaired development of the serotonin system in the brain. It also showed that placing the offspring on a healthy diet at an early age failed to reverse the effect.

Sullivan’s findings suggest that factors during early development such as maternal nutrition are at least as important as genetic predisposition in determining the risk of developing neurodevelopmental disorders, such attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as well as the risk of developing mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression. This has important implications for the mental health of future generations. (More information about the initial findings.)

Other scientists who’ve reviewed this research have commented: “ … This is really the clearest demonstration that [a mother’s high-fat diet] affect[s] the child’s brain and behavior.”

Sullivan and colleagues believe that these findings provide evidence that mobilizing public resources to provide healthy food and pre- and post-natal care to families of all socioeconomic classes could reduce mental health disorders in future generations.

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