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Animals can suffer with anxiety


Wednesday August 4th 2010

Animals living in a world where they are regularly threatened by predators will develop a negative emotion or mood, researchers have revealed.

On the other side of the equation, an environment with plenty of opportunities for survival resources can create a more positive mood state for animals, the findings of a study concluded.

Academics have devised a framework to understand the emotional lives of animals.

Evidence of pessimistic or optimistic decision-making, which indicates their long-term mood, can be used to objectively assess choices animals make.

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In order to create a framework that can be used in the field of animal welfare and neuroscience, papers by experts from Charles Darwin to Paul Ekman and Jaak Panksepp were analysed by professor Mike Mendl and Dr Liz Paul, from the University of Bristol, and Dr Oliver Burman, from the University of Lincoln.

Professor Mike Mendl, head of the Animal Welfare and Behaviour research group at Bristol University's School of Clinical Veterinary Science, said: "Because we can measure animal choices objectively, we can use optimistic and pessimistic decision-making as an indicator of the animal's emotional state which itself is much more difficult to assess.

"Recent studies by our group and others suggest that this may be a valuable new approach in a variety of animal species."

An animal living in a world where it is regularly threatened by predators will develop a negative emotion or mood, such as anxiety.

Conversely, an environment with plenty of opportunities for survival resources creates a more positive mood state.

The researchers argued that these emotional states not only reflect the animal's experiences, they also help it decide how to make choices, especially in ambiguous situations which could have good or bad outcomes.

Copyright © Press Association 2010

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