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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.”

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Zoo animals step on the scales for annual weigh-in

News Story 1
 Squirrel monkeys, penguins and meerkats are just some of the animals that stepped on the scales on Thursday (22 August) for the start of ZSL London Zoo’s annual weigh-in.

The annual event gives keepers a chance to check the animals in their care are healthy, eating well and growing at the correct weight. Keepers say that a growing waistline can also help them to detect pregnancies, which is vital as many of the species at the zoo are endangered.

The data is then added to a database shared with zoos and conservationists across the globe. This helps keepers to compare information and provide better care for the species they are fighting to protect.  

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Professor Abdul Rahman announced as keynote speaker for BVA Members’ Day 2019

Celebrated Indian vet and parasitologist Professor Abdul Rahman is set to deliver the keynote speech at BVA Members’ Day 2019.

Professor Rahman will present his insights into the human behaviour challenges of controlling zoonotic disease in his talk: ‘A One Health approach to rabies elimination in Asia’. The talk will outline efforts to gain political support for dog vaccination programmes in China, as well as the need for a collaborative approach between vets, public health, livestock and animal welfare agencies.

The event takes place on Thursday, 19 September at Brangwyn Hall, Swansea. Tickets are free but must be reserved through the BVA website as places are limited.