Sensitivity to reward loss as an indicator of animal emotion and welfare

Burman, Oliver, Parker, Richard, Paul, Elizabeth and Mendl, Michael (2008) Sensitivity to reward loss as an indicator of animal emotion and welfare. Biology Letters, 4 (4). pp. 330-333. ISSN 1744-9561

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Sensitivity to reward loss as an indicator of animal emotion and welfare.
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The scientific study of animal emotion is an
important emerging discipline in subjects ranging
from neuroscience to animal welfare
research. In the absence of direct measures of
conscious emotion, indirect behavioural and
physiological measures are used. However, these
may have significant limitations (e.g. indicating
emotional arousal but not valence (positivity
versus negativity)). A new approach, taking its
impetus from human studies, proposes that
biases in information processing, and underlying
mechanisms relating to the evaluation of
reward gains and losses, may reliably reflect
emotional valence in animals. In general, people
are more sensitive to reward losses than gains,
but people in a negative affective state (e.g.
depression) are particularly sensitive to losses.
This may underlie broader findings such as an
enhanced attention to, and memory of, negative
events in depressed individuals. Here we show
that rats in unenriched housing, who typically
exhibit indicators of poorer welfare and a more
negative affective state than those in enriched
housing, display a prolonged response to a
decrease in anticipated food reward, indicating
enhanced sensitivity to reward loss. Sensitivity
to reward reduction may thus be a valuable new
indicator of animal emotion and welfare.

Keywords:Emotion, Laboratory rat, Incentive contrast, Animal Welfare
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C120 Behavioural Biology
D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D328 Animal Welfare
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:3739
Deposited On:17 Dec 2010 11:48

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