Animal Research

Insights gained in basic research

Ever since their existence, humans have been seeking knowledge. Knowledge enables us to evaluate the possible consequences of our actions and, where appropriate, look for alternatives. Fundamental research is an important way to pursue this quest for knowledge today. At ESI we try to unravel the neural mechanisms underlying higher cognitive functions, like attention and memory. This kind of knowledge increases the understanding of human nature, and also helps to understand the causes of psychiatric diseases like schizophrenia and eventually aids the development of potential remedies.

Why we use animal models

At ESI we investigate cognitive functions by means of non-invasive methods like MEG and fMRI in humans. However, these techniques lack the temporal and spatial resolution to observe neural interactions on a cellular level. For these purposes, studies in animal models are indispensable. Insights we gather from neural signals of both macaques and marmosets can be used to approximate the foundations of human cognition.
ESI fully acknowledges the responsibility that comes with animal research. Animal welfare, the best possible holding conditions and responsible treatment are not only ethical obligations, but also a prerequisite for obtaining valid scientific results. Accordingly, ESI attaches great importance to excellent care and accommodation of the animals. Of course, we comply with the regulations set out in the Animal Welfare Act. Furthermore, ESI has adopted measures of scientific self-obligation.

Reduce, Refine, Replace, Responsibility

ESI is fully committed to the principles laid out by the Max Planck Society’s white paper (Link). This means that scientists at ESI plan and conduct their research according to the principles of the 3Rs: reduce, refine, replace.

Reduce the number of laboratory animals wherever possible. For every study, only the minimum number of animals is used, which is necessary to reach robust conclusions.
Refine methods to protect and promote animal welfare.
Replace animal research. Cell cultures, computer models and studies on human volunteers are used when they are suitable for providing answers to the scientific problem at hand. Animal research is only carried out if there is no alternative.

At ESI, we are particularly committed to the Max Planck Society’s pledge to adopt an additional R: Responsibility. We take our responsibility very seriously. Animal welfare matters. Also and particularly in brain research.

Understanding animal research

Do you want to know more about animal research? Where it can be avoided, where it is indispensable, and how it is really done? Understanding animal research as well as the German counterpart Tierversuche verstehen provide comprehensive and reliably researched information about different aspects around animal research.

Understanding Animal Research

Tierversuche verstehen


The ESI is one of the 53 first signatories of the Initiative Transparente Tierversuche. Our institute is committed to providing transparent information about animal experiments and to actively participating in the public dialogue about animal research. Another component of the agreement is to exchange experiences with other research institutions with a life science orientation. The German Research Foundation (DFG) launched this initiative in collaboration with the German information platform “Tierversuche verstehen” (Understanding Animal Research). Furthermore we are a member of the European Animal Research Association (EARA). EARA is a communications and advocacy organisation, representing both public and private institutions in the biomedical sector.

Initiative Transparente Tierversuche

European Animal Research Association (EARA)