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HABRI selects final grant recipient

Article

The grant will be awarded to Purdue University to be used in new brain imaging research to measure human-dog interaction

Nadezhda/stock.adobe.com

Nadezhda/stock.adobe.com

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and Pet Partners announced that Purdue University will receive a grant for its research project that will investigate the impact interacting with a dog has on human brain activities. The researchers at Purdue will use Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) to measure neural responses correlating with human-dog interaction and potential factors that influence responses.

“We hear stories every day about how our Pet Partners registered therapy dogs and their handlers make a positive difference in people’s lives,” said C. Annie Peters, president and chief executive officer of Pet Partners, in an organizational release.1 “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.”

According to the release,1 fNIRS is one of the most non-invasive functional imaging methods using near-infrared light to estimate neural or brain activity. Most measures of human-animal bond benefits are typically self-reported and psychological evaluation, but they do not show underlying mechanisms, such as brain activity.

“Despite analyzing inter-species interactions and dealing with social behaviors, human-animal interaction research from the neuroscience approach is scarce,” said Niwako Ogata, BVSc, PhD, DACVB, associate professor of animal behavior at the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, and 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,” she continued.1

This project at Purdue will enroll healthy, dog-owning participants to partake in psychological and physiological stress test within a controlled laboratory setting. Participants will also be asked to interact with both an unfamiliar and familiar dog as they recover from the stress test while the researchers evaluate neural responses with the fNIRS.

Participants will also take part in a saliva test and self-reports to help verify what the fNIRS finds. The researchers will also monitor canine behavior and heart rate variable to decipher how the participating canines process the tested interactions.

“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.”

References

New research to use brain imaging to measure human-dog interaction. News release. Human Animal Bond Research Institute. January 17, 2023. Accessed January 18, 2023.

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