Cookie use on MRCVSonline
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive all cookies.
If you would like to forward this story on to a friend, simply fill in the form below and click send.

Your friend's email:
Your email:
Your name:
 
 
Send Cancel

Odours ‘can evoke positive emotions’ in rats
"If an animal has to go through a stressful procedure, it could be presented with an odour that it had previously associated with a pleasant context.”
Research finds rats can learn to link smells with positive experiences 

Odours can be used to evoke a positive emotional state in animals, a new study of rats suggests.

An international research team found that rats can learn to associate a neutral odour with a positive experience. Their findings have been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Rats emit high pitched ultrasonic vocalisations (USVs), which are similar to laughter, when they are happy. This is used to measure their ‘enjoyment’ of being tickled.

Scientists discovered that rats exposed to a neutral odour emitted more USVs when they were subsequently exposed to the same smell without being tickled.

“This suggests that the odour is now able to produce a positive emotional state in the rats and has a number of potential applications, including the use of positive odour conditioning to ameliorate stress in domestic animals,” said Alistair Lawrence, chair of animal behaviour and welfare at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and the University of Edinburgh.

He added: “For example, if an animal has to go through a stressful procedure, it could be presented with an odour that it had previously associated with a pleasant context.”

Two groups of rats were exposed to different different neutral odours (A and B). Researchers then measured the USVs produced by the group of rats being tickled and the control group. Tickled rats produced significantly more USVs on the days that they were tickled, and compared to the control rats.

Both groups were then exposed to three odours, an unknown neutral odour, extract of fox faeces, and either odours A or B. Tickled rats emitted more USVs when they were exposed to the odour they had already been exposed to when tickled.

Vincent Bombail, research scientist at the National de la Recherche Agronomique, said: “This is a novel method for positive/appetitive conditioning without the use of drug or food rewards. It is a fascinating foray into the world of positive emotions, which was enjoyable for the rats, as well as all the experimenters involved.”

Become a member or log in to add this story to your CPD history

Veterinary Evidence Student Awards winners revealed

News Story 1
 The first winners of the RCVS Knowledge Veterinary Evidence Student Awards have been revealed.

Molly Vasanthakumar scooped first prize for her knowledge summary comparing the ecological impact of woven versus disposable drapes. She found that there is not enough evidence that disposable synthetics reduce the risk of surgical site.

Second prize went to Honoria Brown of the University of Cambridge, for her paper: ‘Can hoof wall temperature and digital pulse pressure be used as sensitive non-invasive diagnostic indicators of acute laminitis onset?’

Edinburgh’s Jacqueline Oi Ping Tong won third prize for critically appraising the evidence for whether a daily probiotic improved clinical outcomes in dogs with idiopathic diarrhoea. The papers have all achieved publication in RCVS Knowledge’s peer-reviewed journal, Veterinary Evidence.  

Click here for more...
News Shorts
Animal Welfare Foundation seeks new trustees

The Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) seeks three new trustees to help drive the charity’s mission to improve animal welfare through veterinary science, education and debate.

Veterinary and animal welfare professionals from across the UK may apply, particularly those with experience in equine and small animal practice and research management. Trustees must attend at least two meetings a year, as well as the annual AWF Discussion Forum in London.

For more information about the role, visit www.animalwelfarefoundation.org.uk. Applications close at midnight on 13 August 2019.