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Single Neuron Wired To Muscle Un-Paralyzes Monkeys

samzenpus posted about 6 years ago | from the gentlemen-we-can-rebuild-him dept.

Biotech 180

GalaticGrub writes "A pair of paralyzed monkeys regained the ability to move their arms after researchers wired individual neurons to the monkeys' arm muscles. A team of researchers at the University of Washington temporarily paralyzed each monkey's arm, then rerouted brain signals from a single neuron in the motor cortex around the blocked nerve pathway via a computer. When the neuron fired above a certain rate, the computer translated the signal into a jolt of electricity to the arm muscle, causing it to contract. The monkeys practiced moving their arms by playing a video game."

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Sucky job (5, Funny)

Hatta (162192) | about 6 years ago | (#25393491)

Who's the grad student who had to break those monkeys spines?

Re:Sucky job (4, Funny)

FSWKU (551325) | about 6 years ago | (#25393603)

No grad students were involved. They simply told the RIAA that the monkeys were sharing the new Metallica album on all the major P2P networks. The Schutzstaffel...err... RIAA legal team took care of the rest.

Re:Sucky job (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25393745)

Who's the grad student who had to break those monkeys spines?

The most ambitious and dedicated monkey spanker you'll ever meet!

As an aside, if you do, by chance meet him, don't shake his hand. Postgrads in the Simian Abuse dept. have a hellova grip...

Re:Sucky job (5, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | about 6 years ago | (#25393815)

"Who's the grad student who had to break those monkeys spines?"

The subjects were actually grad students costumed as monkeys.
Lab monkeys are too valuable to use.

Re:Sucky job (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25395313)

Actually, they used members of a Congressional committee tasked with investigating executive branch wrongdoing...

So, spines weren't an issue.

Re:Sucky job (5, Insightful)

rockrat (104803) | about 6 years ago | (#25394225)

No one broke the monkeys' spines. The article [nature.com] states that the spinal neurons innervating the wrist muscles were temporarily blocked using a local anesthetic. What's particularly amazing about this study is that the monkeys were able to quickly learn to control their wrists using the cortical neurons that the computer was monitoring, even if those neurons were not involved in control of the wrist before paralysis.

I'm a friend of the paper's author and am certain that neither the researchers nor any sane review board would have allowed monkeys to be permanently injured to perform this study; it just wouldn't be necessary.

Re:Sucky job (3, Funny)

Ihmhi (1206036) | about 6 years ago | (#25394521)

Oooh ooh ooh I finally get to say it!

WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH!

Re:Sucky job (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25394689)

I used to work in the University of Washington monkey lab.

The review board actually allowed lots of cruel things happen to monkeys "in the name of science."

Re:Sucky job (1)

ocularDeathRay (760450) | about 6 years ago | (#25395093)

QUICK! Somebody light this monkey!

Re:Sucky job (1)

Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) | about 6 years ago | (#25395977)

Why so serious?

Re:Sucky job (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 6 years ago | (#25395463)

Don't worry about it. They probably just mounted a scratch monkey [wikipedia.org] .

Yes (4, Funny)

eclectro (227083) | about 6 years ago | (#25393503)

But can you teach them to type??

Re:Yes (5, Funny)

arrenlex (994824) | about 6 years ago | (#25393523)

But can you teach them to type??

Of course; that's how they expect their thesis to be written.

Ob. (5, Funny)

Facetious (710885) | about 6 years ago | (#25393581)

It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times. Blurst of times! Stupid monkey!

Re:Ob. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25395061)

"Stupid monkey! This is Dickens not Shakespeare!"

Re:Yes (5, Insightful)

owlnation (858981) | about 6 years ago | (#25393571)

But can you teach them to type??

Yes. I offer Wikipedia as proof.

Re:Yes (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25394193)

*Yes. I offer Conservapedia as proof.*

Fixed that for you.

Dear God, free us from religion... (3, Funny)

Somegeek (624100) | about 6 years ago | (#25394677)

That site is real, isn't it? For the first few minutes of reading I convinced myself that it was just a funny hoax site, but the deeper I went into it the more scared I became...

Would it be irony if I prayed to God to free us from religion? I still don't have that whole irony thing down yet.

Re:Dear God, free us from religion... (4, Insightful)

g-san (93038) | about 6 years ago | (#25395197)

This is irony:

God, please protect me from your followers.

Re:Dear God, free us from religion... (2, Interesting)

Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) | about 6 years ago | (#25395985)

God is actually powered by Irony. And heaven is a place only for those who don't believe in it.
(okay, that genius idea was totally Dresden Codak's, credit where credit is due.)

Teach them to make some shoes (1)

Capn_Snazzy (785218) | about 6 years ago | (#25393593)

Why not hook the monkey brain right up to a robot arm and let them play the game, assemble Nike shoes. Robot arms wouldn't wear out as quickly as monkey arms.

oo oo oo oooo snort (0, Redundant)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 6 years ago | (#25393723)

oo oo aa aaa aaaaa

snort

oo ooooo

Re:oo oo oo oooo snort (3, Interesting)

Joe Tie. (567096) | about 6 years ago | (#25393917)

Odd note, but monkeys seem to have a preference for holding down the s key on american keyboard layouts.

Re:oo oo oo oooo snort (3, Funny)

mrdarreng (1120603) | about 6 years ago | (#25395129)

Odd note, but monkeys seem to have a preference for holding down the s key on american keyboard layouts.

Apparently, grad students will write a thesis about anything...

Re:oo oo oo oooo snort (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25395827)

Odd note, but monkeys seem to have a preference for holding down the s key on american keyboard layouts.

Sssssssssssure.

Re:oo oo oo oooo snort (1)

Jedi Alec (258881) | about 6 years ago | (#25395851)

So they like to run backwards while firing in an FPS? Makes sense to me :)

Sarcastic thanks for all the details! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25396315)

If this is true, then I suppose it could be because monkies are very afraid of snakes, and the 's' character looks like a snake on keyboard and screen. Notice people make a hissing noise when they say the letter!

The slashdot blurb amused me, because I think the fact monkies played computer games is just as interesting and important as the neuron work (although not novel, I believe). For example, the religulous right in America is extremely dangerous and their ignorance of the universe and humanity is challenged by our (painfully slow) discoveries about animal intelligence.

Re:Yes (2, Funny)

failedlogic (627314) | about 6 years ago | (#25394009)

Since I'm going to be working on my Master's thesis soon methinks paying the university for the monkeys might not be a bad idea. But, I want to finish ASAP. I am willing to pay for a Beowulf-cluster of typing monkeys. And I want a guarantee that the monkeys will not screw-up. I do no want my thesis to be cluster-fucked!

Re:Yes (2, Funny)

oliverk (82803) | about 6 years ago | (#25394149)

I've heard rumor that a million of them can reproduce the works of Shakespeare. Oh, and fling poo. I almost forgot that part.

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25395593)

Screw that! Can you teach them to farm gold on WoW?

Re:Yes (1)

mweather (1089505) | about 6 years ago | (#25395825)

Where do you think sitcoms come from?

Better title would be.... (5, Insightful)

wealthychef (584778) | about 6 years ago | (#25393521)

"Monkeys learn to play video games." I actually think that's more amazing.

Re:Better title would be.... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25393549)

That gold won't farm itself...

Re:Better title would be.... (4, Interesting)

Yvan256 (722131) | about 6 years ago | (#25393573)

Indeed, while that neuron surgery thing sounds amazing, I was more shocked at the fact that monkeys actually play videogames.

Then I realized... Are the monkeys smarter than we thought or are we just dumberer than we think we aren't not, now what I meen?

Re:Better title would be.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25393771)

Monkeyz is be dum.

Re:Better title would be.... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25393591)

I bet they've already learned how to get around DRM.

Re:Better title would be.... (2, Insightful)

oGMo (379) | about 6 years ago | (#25393801)

You haven't played Halo then.

Re:Better title would be.... (5, Funny)

guyminuslife (1349809) | about 6 years ago | (#25393819)

You were killed by b33st13b0y.
b33st13b0y: lol pwned
b33st13b0y: ur mom is ghey
b33st13b0y: suk it

I think we've known this for quite some time.

Re:Better title would be.... (1)

atomicthumbs (824207) | about 6 years ago | (#25393873)

beestleboy?

Re:Better title would be.... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25394263)

1 = i

(My apologies to anyone that works with complex numbers.)

Re:Better title would be.... (1)

Hooya (518216) | about 6 years ago | (#25395221)

no one works with complex numbers, for complex numbers don't exist: they're all imaginary.

Re:Better title would be.... (3, Informative)

4D6963 (933028) | about 6 years ago | (#25395595)

no one works with complex numbers, for complex numbers don't exist: they're all imaginary.

Except the part of them that's real...

Re:Better title would be.... (1)

Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) | about 6 years ago | (#25396009)

yeah, because 'real' numbers are more substantial than 'imaginary' ones, lol.

Besides, unless the complex number is of the form 0+x(i), they've all got a real component.

Re:Better title would be.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25396173)

Not really, all real numbers are complex - they are simply a subset where the imaginary part is 0

Re:Better title would be.... (1)

rdnetto (955205) | about 6 years ago | (#25395685)

I work with complex numbers, you insensitive clod!

Re:Better title would be.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25395811)

Well then, just for a minute, imagine that you don't.

Re:Better title would be.... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25393893)

Actually, I think it's not that amazing, given the game they were playing:

"As a test of the rewiring, the researchers had each monkey play a simple video game. By moving its wrist, the monkey could manipulate a cursor on a computer screen. Moving the cursor into a box at the side of the screen earned the monkey a reward."

Re:Better title would be.... (2, Insightful)

rockrat (104803) | about 6 years ago | (#25394233)

Playing video games is the standard way to teach monkeys tasks such as this. After all, we're monkeys and we don't seem to have any trouble plopping down in front of a video game for thousands of hours.

Re:Better title would be.... (2, Informative)

lysergic.acid (845423) | about 6 years ago | (#25395165)

we're not monkeys. we're taxonomically classified as apes though (i think).

Monkeys are not Christians (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25393533)

They should not have computers because that can corrupt the youth and this pleases the Devil not our LORD

hallelujah (1)

ionymous (1216224) | about 6 years ago | (#25393543)

Paralyzed video game playing monkeys are rejoicing the world around.

Re:hallelujah (4, Interesting)

digitalchinky (650880) | about 6 years ago | (#25393631)

Certainly they may be jumping for joy. Though there is more to it than just wiring an electrode to a muscle before the fat lady can sing again.

A functional limb without any sense of its location in relation to the body is a problem, one without feeling is also a problem. Did they think about electrodes for everything else the nervous system is responsible for too?

Re:hallelujah (3, Funny)

marxmarv (30295) | about 6 years ago | (#25393967)

They have their specialization and you have yours.

Re:hallelujah (3, Insightful)

prod-you (940679) | about 6 years ago | (#25394137)

As opposed to the mechanical prosthetics that feed information back?

Now we can reuse stuff that's already built in.

Re:hallelujah (4, Informative)

rockrat (104803) | about 6 years ago | (#25394275)

It's certainly true that proprioception (the ability to sense joint location) and sensation of muscle tension are useful feedback systems in coordinating limb movements. It's well known in the field (I'm a neuroscientist), however, that several neurological conditions rob patients of these sensations and they're still able to move their limbs effectively (though not perfectly). I'd guess that a patient who was paralyzed wouldn't mind being able to move their arms again, even if they couldn't feel where they were without looking.

Re:hallelujah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25395009)

Maybe depends on the limb, but my experience is that after long uncomfortable floor sitting causing my leg to "fall asleep" is terrible.

All I feel is a cold tingle for a while, without the comfortable measure of how expanded or contracted my legs are around the knee, and even pushing myself up to walk feels like a peg leg is keeping me on my feet... weirder still is hearing your sleeping foot hit the floor hard without feeling the appropriate sensorial feedback from your soles while you're trying to walk the thing off.

Re:hallelujah (1)

g-san (93038) | about 6 years ago | (#25395225)

Hmmmm... that would also mean there needs to be two way communication, not just from the motor cortex to the muscle but nerves and paths back for the feedback. I am going to guess that the former is much easier than the latter.

Re:hallelujah (3, Informative)

gamanimatron (1327245) | about 6 years ago | (#25396137)

I wouldn't be too sure. This is just the latest in a long string of research findings that point toward an astounding degree of neural plasticity in adults. At this point, if I had to guess, I'd say that wiring one sensory nerve from the general area back to a single neuron would end up restoring a noticeable degree of "feeling".

'Cause you know, neurons that fire together wire together.

Re:hallelujah (1)

gregbot9000 (1293772) | about 6 years ago | (#25396119)

DUDE, I'd totally give up all of the feeling in my hands for robotic claws. Hell I'd give up all feeling for a robot Chassis. In fact giving up all feeling is a plus. Who needs to feel when you hug your loved ones when you could have the option of not feeling as you crush city hall?

oblig (0)

owlnation (858981) | about 6 years ago | (#25393553)

In Washington, monkey punches you.

Re:oblig (1)

chord.wav (599850) | about 6 years ago | (#25394017)

They can make the monkey punch himself, that would be funny as hell.

Amazing (5, Funny)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | about 6 years ago | (#25393619)

Amazing! This is truly a wonderful time to be a monkey.

Well, I just hope (2, Funny)

/dev/zero (116295) | about 6 years ago | (#25393655)

they mounted a scratch monkey first.

Re:Well, I just hope (1)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | about 6 years ago | (#25393721)

Entirely predictable and yet still laugh-out-loud funny. Well played, sir.

Re:Well, I just hope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25393753)

Isn't that how AIDS got started?

Correlation != Causation (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25393765)

The researchers who published this should have 'Correlation is not causation' written in giant billboards in front of their houses.

Just 2 monkeys regained movement after the experiment does not mean that rerouting brain signals past blocked nerve pathways using a single neuron controlled by a computer did anything at all. They should have waited until they had ruled out other possibilities, like divine intervention, before publishing results. For shame!

Re:Correlation != Causation (0)

Cassius Corodes (1084513) | about 6 years ago | (#25393795)

RTFP

Re:Correlation != Causation (1)

SpeZek (970136) | about 6 years ago | (#25394031)

Whoosh!

Seems ripe for exploitation (5, Funny)

durnurd (967847) | about 6 years ago | (#25393805)

Also, he adds, the system would ideally be fully implantable. Whenever wires protrude through the skin, as they did in the monkey experiments, they introduce risks of infection and disruption. The group plans to tackle this problem with miniaturized components and wireless technology.

Seems ripe for exploitation...
"...Quit hitting yourself! Quit hitting yourself..."

Re:Seems ripe for exploitation (1)

TWX (665546) | about 6 years ago | (#25394177)

I'd be more worried about hostage situations where people with such a system are held hostage by making their own limbs hold the dead-man switch while the perps get away...

Re:Seems ripe for exploitation (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | about 6 years ago | (#25394559)

Wireless technology? I hope they have something better than WEP.

Then again, we could set up some pretty cool programs. How about every time someone types "Frosty Piss" they slap themselves.

Sooo... What if they connected a human's brain (5, Interesting)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | about 6 years ago | (#25393813)

Can a human control a monkey arm?
If so, can we control its entire body?
If so, can we do it remotely, through a wire to a cell phone.
If so, how long until someone decides to use monkeys as freedom fighters?
Yes, science should never go down this path, but hey, it is still possible to look down the paths

Re:Sooo... What if they connected a human's brain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25393921)

I hope you're not serious. It would be far easier and quicker to use robots or human suicide-bombers or just about anything else, really.

Re:Sooo... What if they connected a human's brain (2, Funny)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | about 6 years ago | (#25394101)

I hope you're not serious. It would be far easier and quicker to use robots or human suicide-bombers or just about anything else, really.

Yeah, but watching monkeys blow themselves up would be way more fun.

Re:Sooo... What if they connected a human's brain (3, Funny)

FooGoo (98336) | about 6 years ago | (#25393933)

I've always wanted to create an army of monkeys bent on global domination and I am sure I am not the only one.

Re:Sooo... What if they connected a human's brain (2, Funny)

Better.Safe.Than.Sor (836676) | about 6 years ago | (#25394477)

... army of FLYING monkeys, you insensitive clod!

Re:Sooo... What if they connected a human's brain (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | about 6 years ago | (#25393963)

If so, how long until someone decides to use monkeys as freedom fighters?

Lawnmower Man. [youtube.com]

Re:Sooo... What if they connected a human's brain (1)

DriedClexler (814907) | about 6 years ago | (#25394105)

People will probably laugh at the idea, but ... once we have bionic enhancements superior to what evolution came up with, it will probably be cheaper to raise monkeys and fit them with the enhancements and dump them loose on the enemy, than to hire human soldiers. Remember, humans will require more and more to put their lives on the line, while monkeys and manufacturing will just get cheaper...

Re:Sooo... What if they connected a human's brain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25394347)

Can a human control a monkey arm?
If so, can we control its entire body?
If so, can we do it remotely, through a wire to a cell phone.
If so, how long until someone decides to use monkeys as freedom fighters?
Yes, science should never go down this path, but hey, it is still possible to look down the paths

Well that would explain George Bush...

Re:Sooo... What if they connected a human's brain (1)

4D6963 (933028) | about 6 years ago | (#25395625)

Why bother with a monkey though. The main desirable thing about a monkey is its brain, so if you're only interested in the body.. you might as well use something more powerful, like a tiger, or a shark.. and possibly mount a weapon on them...

Is it me or do I smell a meme somewhere nearby?

Shock the Monkey (5, Funny)

afxgrin (208686) | about 6 years ago | (#25393843)

Whoever tagged this article "shockthemonkey" is awesome.

please please please (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25393939)

route the video game to another monkey

George Bush? (2, Insightful)

Own3d-You (1082423) | about 6 years ago | (#25393983)

This article explains everything.

Cue the activists... (0, Flamebait)

SpeZek (970136) | about 6 years ago | (#25394007)

And the animal rights crowd would have these amazing experiments banished in the name of self-righteousness and guilt...

Cool research (1)

Kratisto (1080113) | about 6 years ago | (#25394049)

But can they play Crysis?

where's the video (2, Interesting)

heroine (1220) | about 6 years ago | (#25394055)

Where's the video of the mokeys playing video games with the bionic nerves?

Re:where's the video (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25394271)

Where's the video of the mokeys playing video games with the bionic nerves?

Did you ever imagine you would type those words?

WoW (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25394109)

That explains those WoW players flinging poop at me.

humansdumb (1)

the_Bionic_lemming (446569) | about 6 years ago | (#25394269)

This really bodes bad for humans and Gaming.

I mean really, a chimp can play anything ea games puts out with a fricking brain block in place...

Oh the shame.... //starts flinging excrement on c&c 3 games

Random is powerful (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25394289)

"[...] Even though the rewired brain cell was chosen at random, the monkeys quickly learned to move their paralyzed wrists. [...]"

THAT'S the power of random decisions. when you don't know how to do something, you try it randomly. That's the kind of things that programming teachers don't seem to understand; you never think deeply about the exit condition of a loop; you simply choose it randomly and then you test it. Rationale will be unveiled some time after.

sweet!! (4, Insightful)

X0563511 (793323) | about 6 years ago | (#25394315)

Am I the only one who's more interested in the medical significance of this, instead of the silly aspect of monkey-gaming? Holy crap guys, use your brains.

This means that we have the potential to repair neural damage, potentially severe damage as well!

I see particular use with pacemakers. Rather than just pulse the heart at a given frequency, read what the brain wants the heart to do, and do that! You could do the same thing for the lungs as well, although I'm not sure how often someone who damages that nerve makes it to the hospital in time.

Other use could be with amputation victims. Helping restore function to reattached appendages/digits, or controlling prosthesis...

I wonder if, further down the line, it would be possible to do this to sensory nerves as well, not just motor control/response...

Re:sweet!! (1)

Better.Safe.Than.Sor (836676) | about 6 years ago | (#25394491)

Yes, hmm, I quite agree with your first point . . . and, uh . . . MONKEYS!!!

Re:sweet!! (2, Insightful)

jmorris42 (1458) | about 6 years ago | (#25394701)

> This means that we have the potential to repair neural damage, potentially severe damage as well!

And paraplegics will get to walk again.... no stem cells required. Ok, that is an offtopic troll, but it just needed sayin.

If this story turns out to be the real deal it is going to be major world changing stuff. Imagine the possibilities! Implant a few sensors or better yet refine our ability to pick up on these signals without poking wires into brains and remotely control all sorts of things.

Re:sweet!! (1)

Bazouel (105242) | about 6 years ago | (#25394805)

If I am not mistaken, I remember reading that certain muscles, cardiovascular in particular, do not need to be controlled directly by the brain or even the spine. They contract at a regular interval on their own.

Re:sweet!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25394933)

And as a refinement of the application after we learn to deal with prosthetic limbs, we can start restoring movement of partial facial paralysis victims.

After all, Rambo's mouth needs some fixing... it's not just some good acting behind that sagging lip there. ;)

Something benign and temporary like Bell's Palsy hits 50,000 people in North America each year, and not everyone recovers 100% movement to the affected side of the face. Knowing that you're too old to have high chances of good recovery would be easier if an alternative fix existed.

Re:sweet!! (1)

jamesh (87723) | about 6 years ago | (#25396313)

Holy crap guys, use your brains.

I don't need to. I can wire in a monkey brain and use it instead. People who know me might suggest that this has already happened.

medical significance of this, silly aspect of monkey-gaming

The medical uses will be great, but the technology will be funded and advanced by MMORG companies who, finally realizing that their AI sucks, will move on to using monkey brains in jars.

Next on Slashdot. (1)

SeNtM (965176) | about 6 years ago | (#25394891)

In a separate but related study:

Researchers discover that previously paralysed monkeys which play more than 200 consecutive hours of GTA-IV have a greater propensity for violence, instigating one-on-one attacks with one-another using blunt objects. In this amazing display of self-realization, the monkeys we able to determine that successive blows to the back with an aluminium baseball-bat would do little damage. One monkey was quoted as saying (in American Sign-Language, of course), "Hey what's the worst that could happen, I wake up tomorrow and I can't walk? The jerk in the lab-coat that snapped my spine already and destroyed all feeling I have below my neck. I can't get any pleasure out of my favorite past-time activity, you know, spanking the monkey..."

Researchers we also amazed that monkeys could sign ellipses with no comprehension of punctuation. A working theory is that the lack of the desire to masturbate has driven the monkey's brain to develop at an accelerated rate. And while frequent masturbation may not make you go blind, it might make you as dumb as a monkey.

On a side-note, I found this secondary article very, if not more, enlightening. It makes me wonder how smart I would get if I jerked it less...

Spanking the human... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25394931)

Sorry... it just occurred to me as another arm-motion-practice activity which would come naturally to any monkey.

Stop martyrising monkeys !!! (1)

yvesdandoy (44789) | about 6 years ago | (#25395325)

leave these poor animals live their live in the forests and stop martyrising them like this !!!

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