Nav: Home

Animal-assisted therapy improves social behavior in patients with brain injuries

April 09, 2019

Animal-assisted therapy can foster social competence in patients with brain injuries and increase their emotional involvement during therapy. These were the findings of a clinical trial conducted by psychologists from the University of Basel and published in the journal Scientific Reports.

After a severe traumatic brain injury, patients often exhibit problems in their social behavior. For instance, they may suffer from reduced emotional empathy and show impaired emotional expression, all contributing to communicative problems in social interactions.

Stimulating engagement and motivation

Animal-assisted therapy is increasingly being used in rehabilitation in order to improve these deficits in patients' social competence. Integrating animals into therapy can, for example, stimulate patient engagement and motivation. In collaboration with REHAB Basel, the clinic for neurorehabilitation and paraplegiology, and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, researchers in the Faculty of Psychology at the University of Basel have now undertaken the first systematic study on in-patients with acquired brain injury to assess the effectiveness of this therapy method.

The study involved conducting animal-assisted therapy sessions for 19 adult participants alongside conventional therapy sessions. The patients' social behavior were recorded and evaluated during over 200 animal-assisted and conventional therapy sessions. The study also documented patient mood and satisfaction and their treatment motivation - an important criterion in therapeutic success.

More positive emotions

The results showed that in the presence of an animal - which included guinea pigs, miniature pigs, rabbits and sheep - patients exhibited more active social engagement than during the conventional therapy sessions. They expressed nearly twice as many positive emotions and communicated more frequently both verbally and non-verbally. The animal-assisted therapy had no effect on negative emotions, such as rage or anger. If an animal was present during the therapy session, patients considered themselves more satisfied and their motivation to actively participate in the therapy higher; this was congruent with the assessments of the therapists.

"The results suggest that animal-assisted therapy can have a positive effect on the social behavior of patients with brain injuries," concluded the study's principal investigator, Dr. Karin Hediger from the University of Basel in Switzerland.

"Animals can be relevant therapeutic partners, because they motivate patients to care for the animal. Secondly, animals provide a stimulus for patients to actively engage in the therapeutic activities." Thus, animal-assisted therapy may be a promising supplement to conventional neurorehabilitation, says the psychologist.
-end-


University of Basel

Related Social Behavior Articles:

Social isolation during adolescence drives long-term disruptions in social behavior
Mount Sinai Researchers find social isolation during key developmental windows drives long term changes to activity patterns of neurons involved in initiating social approach in an animal model.
Flyception 2.0: New imaging technology tracks complex social behavior
An advanced imaging technology developed at UC San Diego is allowing scientists unprecedented access into brain activities during intricate behaviors.
Penn team discovers epigenetic pathway that controls social behavior in carpenter ants
Researchers discovered that a protein called CoRest, a neural repressor that is also found in humans, plays a central role in determining the social behavior of ants.
Brain imaging reveals neural correlates of human social behavior
Advances in the study of human social behavior may lead to a better understanding of normal processes such as empathy and theory of mind, as well as dysregulated conditions including autism spectrum disorder.
Traces of crawling in Italian cave give clues to ancient humans' social behavior
Evidence of crawling in an Italian cave system sheds new light on how late Stone Age humans behaved as a group, especially when exploring new grounds, says a study published today in eLife.
Funerary customs, diet, and social behavior in a pre-Roman Italian Celtic community
Analysis of human remains from a Pre-Roman Celtic cemetery in Italy shows variations in funerary treatment between individuals that could be related to social status, but these variations were not reflected by differences in their living conditions.
Animal-assisted therapy improves social behavior in patients with brain injuries
Animal-assisted therapy can foster social competence in patients with brain injuries and increase their emotional involvement during therapy.
Does wearable behavioral intervention improve social behavior in kids with autism spectrum disorder?
This randomized clinical trial of 71 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) tested a wearable behavioral intervention deployed on Google Glass and worn by children at home to reinforce facial engagement and emotion recognition to improve social behavior.
The cerebellum's hidden roles in social and reward-driven behavior
The cerebellum may regulate sociability and reward-driven behavior by controlling the release of dopamine, according to a new study.
Brain's cerebellum found to influence addictive and social behavior
In a study published online today in the journal Science, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, part of Montefiore, prove for the first time that the brain's cerebellum -- long thought to be mainly involved in coordinating movement -- helps control the brain's reward circuitry.
More Social Behavior News and Social Behavior Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Making Amends
What makes a true apology? What does it mean to make amends for past mistakes? This hour, TED speakers explore how repairing the wrongs of the past is the first step toward healing for the future. Guests include historian and preservationist Brent Leggs, law professor Martha Minow, librarian Dawn Wacek, and playwright V (formerly Eve Ensler).
Now Playing: Science for the People

#566 Is Your Gut Leaking?
This week we're busting the human gut wide open with Dr. Alessio Fasano from the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. Join host Anika Hazra for our discussion separating fact from fiction on the controversial topic of leaky gut syndrome. We cover everything from what causes a leaky gut to interpreting the results of a gut microbiome test! Related links: Center for Celiac Research and Treatment website and their YouTube channel
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Flag and the Fury
How do you actually make change in the world? For 126 years, Mississippi has had the Confederate battle flag on their state flag, and they were the last state in the nation where that emblem remained "officially" flying.  A few days ago, that flag came down. A few days before that, it coming down would have seemed impossible. We dive into the story behind this de-flagging: a journey involving a clash of histories, designs, families, and even cheerleading. This show is a collaboration with OSM Audio. Kiese Laymon's memoir Heavy is here. And the Hospitality Flag webpage is here.