Owls' Skulls Cut Open at Johns Hopkins University

Take Action Campaign Updates Activist Center Scientific Critique

It’s a barren, fluorescent-lit cinderblock torture chamber.

Documents obtained by PETA reveal that Johns Hopkins experimenter Shreesh Mysore cuts into the skulls of barn owls, inserts electrodes into their brains, forces them to look at screens for hours a day, and bombards them with noises and lights—and pretends that doing this will tell us something about attention-deficit disorder in humans.

Owl at Johns Hopkins University
This owl is one of many imprisoned in Shreesh Mysore’s laboratory, where he cuts into their skulls and screws metal devices onto their heads in curiosity-driven experiments that have no relevance for human health.

Funded by Johns Hopkins University and taxpayer money through the National Institutes of Health to the tune of more than $2.5 million, Mysore intends to use 50 to 60 barn owls in just the current set of painful experiments—including six birds simply for surgical practice for his staff.

What Shreesh Mysore Does to Owls

Mysore cuts into owls’ skulls to expose their brains. Then, he screws and glues metal devices onto their heads. The owls endure two to three invasive surgeries before Mysore uses them in experiments. These birds—who are nocturnal hunters who would fly great distances in their natural habitat—are forced into plastic tubes so cramped that they can’t move their wings while Mysore bombards them with sounds and lights and measures their brain activity. For some experiments, he restrains fully conscious owls for up to 12 hours.

During these experiments, he pokes electrodes around in the brains of the fully conscious birds, mutilating their brain tissue so severely that they become “unusable” to him—at which point he kills them.

Mysore admits that his experiments are painful for the owls, yet in his grant application for the experiments, he provides scant information on any pain medication that would be administered.

All the owls are killed at the end of the experiments.

Torturing Owls Does Nothing for Humans

“The evolved differences between owls and humans mean that Shreesh Mysore’s owl findings are highly unlikely to have any relevance to humans. Mysore attempts to promote a view that all animals are basically similar, referring on the Johns Hopkins website to ‘the brain,’ as if all species share a similar brain. Yet every lineage has undergone its own independent history of adaptation and specialization. Refusal to acknowledge species differences violates basic biological concepts.”

—Dr. Pandora Pound, independent research scientist

Mysore claims that his experiments could help humans, but, unlike us, owls have well-developed auditory and visual systems that are specialized for target selection. Bombarding these animals with artificial stimulation while their brain activity is measured in a distressing and completely unnatural situation does nothing to further our understanding of human attention-deficit disorder (ADD). Scientists who’ve gotten the memo that we’re in the 21st century are studying humans with ADD through sophisticated neuroimaging techniques—including functional MRI, positron emission tomography (PET), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), and electroencephalography (EEG). In fact, data from these non-animal research methods have paved the way for current ADD treatments.

Owls’ Skulls Cut Open at Johns Hopkins: Take Action Now!

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