Life Sciences research features on international radio

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Natalia Albuquerque featured on the show discussing the groundbreaking study which found that dogs can recognise emotions in humans by combining information from different senses. This ability had never previously been observed outside of humans.

The research was carried out as part of collaboration between the School of Life Sciences and the School of Psychology, led by Professor Daniel Mills, Dr Anna Wilkinson, Dr Kun Gao and Natalia.

The interview currently features on The Naked Scientists online. The Naked Scientists is a one-hour audience-interactive science radio talk show broadcast live by the BBC in the East of England, nationally by BBC Radio 5 Live and internationally on ABC Radio National, Australia; it is also distributed globally as a podcast.

The programme was created and is edited by a team at Cambridge University.

Natalia’s interview will be broadcast on ABC Radio Australia on Friday 22nd July and BBC 5 Live on Saturday 23rd July.

Listen here: http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/interviews/interview/1001926/

Dogs really can recognise human emotions

 

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As a dog owner you’ve seen them smile, cuddle you when you’re not at your best, mope when you’re not around and pounce around when you’re in the best of moods, but now it’s been scientifically proven: dogs really can recognise emotions in humans.

By combining information from different senses – an ability that has never previously been observed outside of  humans, a new study published from the University of Lincoln reveals.

For the first time, researchers have shown that dogs must form abstract mental representations of positive and negative emotional states, and are not simply displaying learned behaviours when responding to the expressions of people and other dogs.

The findings from a team of animal behaviour experts and psychologists the University of Lincoln, UK, and University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, are published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

The researchers presented 17 domestic dogs with pairings of images and sounds conveying different combinations of positive (happy or playful) and negative (angry or aggressive)  emotional expressions in humans and dogs. These distinct sources of sensory input – photos of facial expressions and audio clips of vocalisations (voices or barks) from unfamiliar  subjects – were played simultaneously to the animals, without any prior training.

The team found the dogs spent significantly longer looking at the facial expressions which matched the emotional state (or valence) of the vocalisation, for both human and canine subjects.

The integration of different types of sensory information in this way indicates that dogs  have mental representations of positive and negative emotional states of others.

Researcher Dr Kun Guo, from the University of Lincoln’s School of Psychology, said: “Previous studies have indicated that dogs can differentiate between human emotions from cues such as facial expressions, but this is not the same as emotional recognition.

“Our study shows that dogs have the ability to integrate two different sources of sensory information into a coherent perception of emotion in both humans and dogs.  To do so requires a system of internal categorisation of emotional states. This cognitive ability has until now only been evidenced in primates and the capacity to do this across species only seen in humans.”

Co-author Professor Daniel Mills, from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln, said: “It has been a long-standing debate whether dogs can recognise human emotions. Many dog owners report anecdotally that their pets seem highly sensitive to the moods of human family members.

“However, there is an important difference between associative behaviour, such as learning to respond appropriately  to an angry voice, and recognising a range of very different cues that go together to indicate emotional  arousal in another. Our findings are the first to show that dogs truly recognise emotions in humans and other dogs.

“Importantly, the dogs in our trials received no prior training or period of familiarisation with the subjects in the images or audio. This suggests that dogs’ ability to combine emotional cues may be intrinsic. As a highly social species, such a tool would have been advantageous and the detection of emotion in humans  may even have been selected for over generations of domestication by us.”

 

Study animal behaviour further with the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln

Keep your pets safe this Bonfire Night

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Here we have top tips on keeping your pets calm and safe this Bonfire Night from Animal Behaviour Clinic’s Senior Technician, Lynn Hewison.

  • Walk your dog early in the day whilst it is light or early in the evening to reduce them hearing any fireworks.
  • When at home, close all doors, windows and curtains and turn the television and/or radio on to dampen any noises your pet may hear.
  • Ensure your cat is kept indoors overnight. Rabbits and guinea pigs should either be moved inside the house or into somewhere that noise can be muffled.
  • Ensure your pet has plenty of water available and food available as per your pets normal requirements. With cats, make sure the litter tray is clean and there are plenty of resources in different locations available in multi-cat households.
  • If your dog or cat goes and hides somewhere, leave them and do not try and move them somewhere else. However, if they settle in the room with you, you can offer a chew or toy to help keep them occupied.
  • If your cat or dog has a safe place they use, the use of pheromones such as Feliway (cats) or ADAPTIL (dogs) can be used to help them feel more secure in these areas.
  • If your pet is scared of fireworks or other loud noises, seek advice from your vet or through referral to the University of Lincoln Animal Behaviour Clinic here.

Helping our animals deal with stress

Professor Daniel MillsA leading animal behaviourist who has pioneered research into the effects of pheromone therapy has co-authored a new book on the subject.

We may not be sure how our animals experience stress, but emotional upset can have a significant impact on their lives.

For this reason, more emphasis is being placed on what can be done to alleviate the effect of different types of stresses on our pets’ emotional and physical health.

Professor Daniel Mills, from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln, has pioneered the use of pheromone therapy to encourage desirable behaviour in dogs and cats.

Bringing together the latest research in this developing area, he has written a new book on the use of pheromone therapy within the field of clinical animal behaviour with colleagues Dr Maya Braem Dube from the University of Bern in Switzerland and European behaviour specialist Helen Zulch, also from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln.

Stress and Pheromonatherapy in Small Animal Clinical Behaviour details how stress impacts on animal behaviour and welfare and what we can do about it, especially by using chemical signals more effectively.

Pheromones, which are a form of chemical signal, are produced by a huge variety of species throughout the animal kingdom. They are released by the animal into its environment and can affect their own behaviour and that of other animals as well.

As the culmination of many years’ research and experiences, the book offers sound evidence-based advice on how and when pheromones can be used most effectively.

It deals with some fundamental issues focussing on the key concepts of the various forms of stress, and how communication and perceptual processes influences the action of message receivers.

It then goes on to cover the application of these concepts to a range of specific situations, concentrating on conditions in which there has been most research to support the effects of pheromone therapy.

Professor Mills, has conducted extensive research in this field over the last 15 years and provides consultancy to a range of organisations in the animal care and science industries.

He said: “We have tried to bring together our experience in both practice and research in veterinary behavioural medicine to present not just the current state of the art, but also a vision of future practice for consideration. In our experience this approach has allowed us to be more specific with our treatment recommendations and led to more rapid progress for clients. The approach may initially appear somewhat novel to practitioners, but is not difficult to understand and has a solid foundation in the latest thinking in neuroscience and behaviour. This is an approach that we have very much developed at the University of Lincoln.”

The publication is suitable for veterinarians in small animal practice, students of clinical animal behaviour and researchers.

For more information or to place an order visit www.wiley.com/go/vet

Dogs needed for international behavioural study

The University of Lincoln is participating in an international study about the reproducibility of behavioural tests on dogs. Investigations will aim to find out if “cultural differences” exist among dogs by looking at how canines from different countries react to various problems.

In the study dogs and owners will jointly participate in a ‘play date’ taking part in new, mentally challenging experiences. Researchers from the School of Life Sciences are specifically looking for Border Collies, Labrador Retrievers and other medium and large size purebred dogs (e.g. Cocker Spaniels, Huskies etc.) who are kept as pets, mainly indoor, are at least one year old and can be motivated to work with food (Frolic® beef).

Tests are scheduled to take place on the Riseholme campus between 10th January and 25th March, 2013.

Contact Dóra Szabó by e-mailing szaboodoora@gmail.com 2hrs 4mins 50.