Measuring and understanding mood in animals

Dr Oliver Burman with Riley
Dr Oliver Burman with Riley

As our knowledge of animal behaviour and cognition grows, we are becoming more effective at assessing animal welfare.

Dr Oliver Burman, Senior Lecturer in the School of Life Sciences, was recently awarded a substantial grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council to develop a new approach that will advance understanding in the field, particularly in respect to how we measure the moods and emotions of animals.Dr Burman is examining how animals respond to unexpected changes in the quality or quantity of rewards. Through this research, Dr Burman hopes to demonstrate that the way in which animals respond to unexpected changes can be influenced by their affective state, with animals with a more ‘positive outlook’ being faster to recover from surprising decreases in reward quantity.

The project is funded for three years, with a research team lead by Dr Burman including a post-doctoral research fellow (Dr Sarah Ellis) and a research technician.