Brain Waves And Equine Welfare

While not the most widely available diagnostic option, measuring the brain waves of horses shows promise as an objective tool for assessing stress and welfare in horses. Often equine welfare is assessed by how people feel when they find animals in particular situations, rather than on scientific findings, Drs. Nora de Camp​​, Mechthild Ladwig-Wiegard​, Carola Geitner, Jürgen Bergeler and Christa Thöne-Reineke note.

The study team created a pilot study to see if an electroencephalogram (EEG) could be used to objectively measure animal welfare and associated physiological states. An EEG detects electrical activity in the brain. The researchers used three adult horses for the study. The horses were recorded for 30 minutes a day for six days. On each day, they were either resting or placed in stocks for a veterinary treatment, which is stressful to horses.

EEG readings were taken throughout and the videos were assessed on the science-based Horse Grimace Scale. The researchers reported that they were able to see differences in EEG activity between the rest and stress phases of the study, which corresponded with significant changes in the Horse Grimace Scale scores.

They conclude that EEGs may be used as a tool to objectively asses animal welfare and well-being. They note that a crossover into human medicine is also a possibility; EEGs could be used as a tool to help determine the comfort level of people who are unable to actively communicate.

Read the full study here.

Read more at HorseTalk.

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