Five Hot Topics in Refinement of Nonhuman Primate Neuroscience Research

This blog post is adapted from an article posted on and originally published in Laboratory Animal Science Professional magazine, a publication by the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science. Contributors include Meaghan Loy, MS, Category Director, In Vivo Services at, as well as Christine L. Buckmaster, BS; Denyse Levesque, DVM; Megan LaFollette, MS, PhD; Jennifer L. McMillan, BS; Mark J. Prescott, PhD; Sally Thompson-Iritani, DVM, PhD.

Nonhuman primates play an important role in neuroscience research and have advanced our understanding of neurological functions, behaviors, and diseases including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and spinal cord injury. This biomedical research is supported by the continual evaluation of opportunities to improve the lives of research animals in line with the refinement principle of the 3Rs.

The purpose of this article is to highlight and provide resources for five recent evidence-based nonhuman primate refinement advances in neuroscience. It is important to remember that modifications must be reviewed and implemented in partnership with the researchers and veterinary and animal care staff, as well as oversight bodies (e.g., Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Board, National Institutes of Health, etc.) to ensure they are incorporated in a thoughtful and measured approach that delivers improved animal welfare and optimal data.

For this article, members of the North American 3Rs Collaborative refinement initiative have summarized developments in five hot topics of interest, including:

  1. Tips for welfare-friendly transport, chairing, and restraint
  2. Guidance on refining food and fluid control
  3. Protective caps for cranial implants
  4. MRI neuroimaging
  5. Retirement: an optional experimental endpoint
Nonhuman primates

Image courtesy of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center.

It is important to recognize that each refinement must be considered in context with the scientific objective and that personnel must be properly trained to implement each technique. For additional ideas of evidence-based refinements for nonhuman primates, visit NC3Rs.