New Grant Funds Purdue Study that Uses Brain Imaging to Measure Human-Dog Interaction
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Human-Animal Bond Research Institute and Pet Partners Award Grant to Purdue Veterinary Medicine
The Human-Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and Pet Partners have announced a grant to fund a Purdue University research project that will investigate the impact interacting with a dog has on human brain activity. Researchers led by Dr. Niwako Ogata, associate professor of animal behavior at the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, will use Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) to measure the neural responses correlating with human-dog interaction, and potential factors that influence these responses.
“We hear stories every day about how our Pet Partners registered therapy dogs and their handlers make a positive difference in peoples’ lives,” said C. Annie Peters, president and CEO of Pet Partners. “We’re proud to fund this research project, which will use imaging technology to gain a deeper understanding of what happens inside the brain when a dog brings comfort to someone in need.”
A large body of research demonstrates the benefits of the human-animal bond for the mental and physical health and wellbeing of people. The most typically deployed measures of these benefits are self-reporting and psychological evaluation, which do not reveal the underlying mechanisms of the human-animal bond, such as changes in brain activity. fNIRS is one of the most common non-invasive functional imaging methods which uses near-infrared light to estimate neural or brain activity.
“Despite analyzing inter-species interactions and dealing with social behaviors, human-animal interaction research from the neuroscience approach is scarce,” said Dr. Ogata, the study’s lead investigator. “With the brain imaging expertise of Dr. Yunjie Tong, assistant professor in Purdue’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, and our collaborators on our inter-disciplinary team approach, we will produce methodologically rigorous evidence regarding the neural correlates of the human-animal bond, enhancing our understanding of the human-animal bond and serving as the basis of future research.”
This project will enroll healthy, dog-owning adult participants to undergo a psychosocial and physiological stress test in a controlled laboratory setting. Participants will interact with both a familiar and unfamiliar dog during the recovery period from the stress test as researchers evaluate the neural response using fNIRS, in addition to more standard saliva testing and self-reports, to verify the fNIRS findings. Researchers will also observe canine behavior and heart rate variability to analyze how the dog processes this interaction.
“This study represents important foundational science on the underpinnings of the human-animal bond,” said Steven Feldman, president of HABRI. “In supporting this project, HABRI and Pet Partners hope to not only advance the field of human-animal interaction, but to also help support the proliferation of safe, effective animal-assisted interventions for people of all ages and health conditions.”
HABRI is a not-for-profit organization that maintains the world’s largest online library of human-animal bond research and information, HABRI Central (www.habricentral.org); funds innovative research projects to scientifically document the health benefits of companion animals; and informs the public about human-animal bond research and the beneficial role of companion animals in society. HABRI Central is housed at Purdue University as a joint effort of the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine and Purdue University Libraries.
About Pet Partners
Pet Partners is the leader in the therapy animal field for registering volunteer teams. Since 1977, the organization has supported thousands of teams in making millions of safe, effective visits across the country and around the world. Pet Partners supports volunteer teams by offering the highest quality preparation, an unmatched approach to evaluation and registration — for nine different types of animals, and a focus on connections.
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