Animal Experimentation in PTSD Update (2)
We have conducted a manual search of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) funding, as provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), isolating those involving animal experimentation. Our findings and methodology can be found below and our data has been collected in a project spreadsheet.
- As noted in our previous brief, the National Institutes of Health estimates PTSD research received a little under $138 million in funding in 2019.
- As shown in the project spreadsheet, of the $137.8 million spent researching PTSD in 2019, $21.6 million (15.7%) was spent in animal research.
- This comprises 60 of the 304 funded projects, or about 19.7%. Ergo, PTSD projects which use animals require (or at least receive) less funding than those using humans, which seems reasonable.
We reviewed our colleague's work, the sources from the original 2017 brief, and the feedback. Having completed our review, we understood the concern that the original research had overlooked a statistically-significant number of projects involving animals and PTSD. Therefore, we resolved to use a different methodology to either confirm or deny and replace our previous estimate. As the NIH estimates on research funding do not seem to be at issue, we have continued to use the 2019 estimate of $138 million spent on PTSD studies as our baseline. Our source includes funding from NIH, USDA, NSF, NASA, EPA, HHS, DOD, and VA, among others.
Agreeing that our colleague's attempt to triangulate the amount spent on animal PTSD research lacked sufficient data points for full confidence, we looked at alternative possibilities. However, none of the alternative triangulation methods explored (e.g., comparing all PTSD academic works published in 2019 with the number that mention one or more common animals used in research, determining the percentage of psychological research that involves animals overall, et al.) inspired sufficient confidence that they would provide a better estimate.
Therefore, and with permission to expand the time frame for our research, we pulled the complete list of the 304 PTSD-related studies funded in 2019 into a project spreadsheet. (Note that we have hidden columns irrelevant to our research, but these are still accessible if needed.) We then worked our way one-by-one through the abstracts of each study to determine if the project in question involved animal experimentation. Due to the constraints of even the expanded research time frame, we did not attempt to go beyond reading the abstracts and results page of each. In some cases, we pulled the abstracts of one or more academic papers to clarify the methodology of the project. Note that we found several instances in which animal experimentation was mentioned as background information but was not part of the project in question.
The total amounts and project counts can be found in row 2, columns J-L.
While significantly higher than our original findings, the number of animal-based PTSD projects is still down considerably from our 2017 results. Those earlier findings are more in line with 1998 paper, which estimates the number of psychology researchers who work with animals at about 30%. (Note: We would not usually use such an old source, but we could find no more recent follow-up or contradictory position in the few minutes we allotted to the subject.) This suggests that 2016 was not a fluke. Why then the discrepancy?
While we did not bother to keep counts, as it was outside the scope of this research brief, we noted several patterns in the human-based research projects. The first is that not only veterans (an obvious target for PTSD research), but women and children, especially from minority populations, are frequent subjects. We might, therefore, hypothesize that heightened political concern for vulnerable groups has had an impact on funding. Also, we noted that many projects involved advanced imaging techniques, with fMRI being a common choice. Therefore, we might also hypothesize that researchers are increasingly exploiting new technologies to study the human brain's activity more directly.
Again, these are mere hypotheses, and we base them on impressions gained during our research rather than a formal count of the human-based projects, nor have we made any attempt to confirm or discard these hypotheses based on other sources. If the reason for the change in funding patterns is at issue, additional research on this topic may prove fruitful.