|Every year since 1998, the Companion Animal Information and Research
Center (CAIRC) has sponsored the CAIRC Scholarship Program for advancing
the study of relationships between humans and companion animals. The
following is a description of the five research projects supported
by the latest round of scholarship awards.
The research presentations for the 6th CAIRC Scholarship Program for
advancing the study of relationships between humans and companion
animals were delivered at a meeting held on July 2 at the Japan National
Press Club in Tokyos Chiyoda Ward. Participants in the event
included scholarship awardees Shu-Feng Chang, Takashi Hanakawa, Tohru
Taniuchi, Nobuyo Otani, and Yuko Tanaka, as well as the selection
committee members Professor Mitsuaki Ohta of Azabu University, Professor
Yuji Mori of the University of Tokyo, and CAIRC Chairman Yoichi Shoda,
Professor Emeritus of the University of Tokyo.
Prior to the research presentations, Dr. Shoda
made the following opening remarks.
Having completed its sixth year, the CAIRC Scholarship Program
for advancing the study of relationships between humans and companion
animals has now supported the research projects of 32 awardees.
The five scholarship recipients whose findings will be presented
today comprise a specialist in education and human development,
a physician specializing in brain function, a specialist in zoology,
psychology researchers, and a specialist in gerontological nursing.
All have done extremely interesting work in these diverse fields,
focusing on human-animal interactions from a wide range of viewpoints.
I look forward so much to these presentation meetings because I
learn so many new things each year.
The symposium of the International
Association for Human-Animal Interaction Organizations (IAHAIO),
of which CAIRC is an affiliate member, takes place once every three
years. This international event will be held in October this year
in the city of Glasgow, UK, and CAIRC scholarship recipient Nobuyo
Otani will be among the presenters there. It is extremely significant
that rather than merely studying the research results from other
countries, we are now generating our own new findings in Japan that
we can disseminate to the rest of the world. Thanks to the work
of these excellent young scholars, we have made still more progress
in accumulating solid research results on the science of human-animal
interactions from diverse intellectual standpoints, and that is
extremely gratifying to me.
The 6th scholarship research projects are richly diverse,
including a comparative survey on the social support pets provide,
a study revealing through MRI images the part of the brain governing
feelings of affection toward companion animals, a consideration
of the effect that learning more about animals has on attitudes
toward them, research aimed at developing more effective training
methods for dogs, and the role of companion animals in maintaining
self-esteem among the elderly. Each of these topics is one in which
we anticipate major results from continued research and further
development. And I sense a passion among these researchers for taking
on the challenges to come.
A comparison of similar and dissimilar points of support provided
by other people and pets from the point of view of social psychology
Social Support and Mental and Physical Well-Being Provided by Companion
Doctoral student, Department of Education and Human Development,
Nagoya University Graduate School
Research has revealed numerous positive effects that
pets have on the human body and mind. These include stress relief,
improved physiological health indicators, relief of heart disease
and mental illness, effects on the health of the elderly, promotion
of inclusion in pet-related social networks, contributions to the
owners sense of distinctiveness and personal image, and so on.
Most of these results, however, are derived from simple measures of
social support levels. Support that humans provide each other, on
the other hand, is studied using much more complex methods that classify
support according to subcategories such as informational, emotional,
instrumental, evaluative, and functional support. Taking existing
social support theory into account, Chang has compared the similarities
and differences between support humans derive from pets and support
they derive from other humans.
Unlike with people, you cannot have a conversation with a pet.
Despite that fact, increasing numbers of people love their pets as
they would their own children, said Chang. Even if we
talk to pets, the conversation will undoubtedly be one-sided. I wanted
to look into exactly what kind of psychological support people derive
from pets, and how that support differs from that provided by other
For the study, a questionnaire was distributed to 436 people, comprising
university students and their family members (homemakers, retirees,
and others). Chang then measured responses to the 63 questions using
four measurement criteria: 1) levels of emotional relief derived from
the pet (13 items), 2) social support levels (23 items), 3) feelings
of loneliness (20 items), and 4) mental health indicators (7 items).
Social support levels ware divided into the following categories:
that derived from pets, that derived from the person the subject depends
on most, and the need for social support. Levels of each support category
were then measured and studied comparatively.
The results indicated that support derived from other humans
may be more necessary than that derived from pets, said Chang.
However, of the 23 items comparing these two types of support,
22 indicated no major differences in the degree of desire for support.
For instance, even on items such as Listens carefully to what
I say, and Cares about whether Im happy, the
results indicated that people derive support from their pets. The
biggest differentiating factor was seen in responses to the item Exercises
together with me. The survey respondents commonly take walks
and play with their pets, but dont do so as much with other
people. This helps to confirm numerous other studies indicating that
pets contribute to the health of humans.
The results also show that pet owners experience relatively
low levels of feelings of loneliness, revealing an even greater value
of the emotional relief provided by pets.
A breakdown of the results by the occupation of the respondents revealed
that retirees derived greater levels of support from pets than from
any other group. The scope of daily life experienced by the elderly
is typically narrower than that of young people, leading to the potential
for a lack of support from other people. Keeping pets can therefore
help reduce feelings of loneliness and tedium, and add variety to
lifestyles. I think that the emotional and physical support pets provide
therefore has a great influence.
The question of the extent to which pets can serve as replacements
for humans is a major issue in the study of human-animal interactions,
commented Professor Ohta. The research undertaken by Ms. Chang
is therefore a typical one and very important. I dont think
that animals can easily serve as full replacements for humans, but
there is ample evidence to suggest that animals are capable of promoting
a persons health more significantly than other people in some
situations. I very much hope that Ms. Chang will continue this research
and take it to even higher levels.
Investigation of brain activities that express feelings
of affection by comparing human and canine faces
Neural Correlates of Perception and Affect Underlying
Human-Animal Relationships: Research Using Functional Magnetic Resonance
Instructor, Human Brain Research Center, Kyoto University Graduate
School of Medicine
Why is it that people pour such affection on their
pets? What is the mechanism of feeling affection? The answers to these
questions remain to be answered. Hanakawa, who researches brain function
at the Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine, set his sights
on the structure of the neural mechanism within the brain that carries
out the face recognition function, which is one factor in generating
feelings of affection.
Advances in research using functional magnetic resonance imaging,
or fMRI, have helped reveal that brain activity associated with various
complex emotions is physically located in the brain, noted Hanakawa.
Extensive research, for instance, has discovered brain activity
associated with human face recognition located in a part of the fusiform
gyrus on the lower surface of the posterior cephalic fold. The first
point of this research project was to find out whether the system
within a dog owners brain that accomplishes face recognition
of the pet has aspects in common with the human face recognition system.
I also wanted to find out whether we would be able to distinguish
among the brain activities associated with recognition of the faces
of closely familiar people, passing acquaintances, and complete strangers.
The goal was to clarify these two points using fMRI.
The procedure consisted of placing 11 subjects in a high-resolution
cranial MRI apparatus and showing them eight successive types of photographs.
They were asked to indicate whether the image was familiar or unfamiliar
to them as the changes in oxygen metabolism and cerebral blood flow
associated with local brain activity were measured. The eight types
of photo images were: 1) faces of examinees family members,
2) faces the examinees were asked to remember just before the exam,
3) faces of strangers, 4) faces of examinees dogs, 5) faces
of dogs the examinees were asked to remember just before the exam,
6) faces of unfamiliar dogs, 7) images hidden by a mosaic pattern
the examinees were asked to remember just before the exam, and 8)
unfamiliar images hidden by a mosaic pattern. Hanakawa prefaced his
explanation of the results with the caveat that they could only be
considered preliminary, since not enough examinees were tested for
the findings to be conclusive.
Activity associated with recognition of both human and canine
faces was observed in part of the fusiform gyrus (Brodmann area 37),
with no clear differences in location for human and canine faces,
he noted. We therefore believe that a common neural base is
used in both functions. We also picked up common reactions in the
anterior orbital surface of the prefrontal cortex and amygdaloid complex
to photos of both familiar human and familiar dog faces. In the future,
I would like to continue research into the potential relationships
between activity in these areas and the emotions of love and affection.
Hanakawa believes that further comprehensive research is necessary.
He notes that in order to further pinpoint the brain structures that
give rise to the emotions of love and affection, it will be necessary
to increase the amount of experimental data available, while also
conducting parallel studies into autonomic nerve reflexes and subjective
Praising the pioneering application of expertise in neurological science
to the field of human-companion animal relationships, Professor Mori
expressed his anticipation for the fruits of further work
in this area. Through advances in diagnostic imaging technology
such as fMRI, it has become possible to study brain function noninvasively,
he said. This will be of tremendous use in revealing the brain
activities that result from interaction with animals. And since the
areas of the brain in which Mr. Hanakawa detected activity also exist
in the brains of animals, his results provide us with a glimpse of
the foundation for emotional communication between humans and animals.
A consideration of the psychology behind humans evaluating
How Learning More About Animals Mental Abilities
Affects Our View of Animals
Lecturer in the Department of Human Studies, Faculty of Letters,
Taniuchi specializes in areas of the psychology of
learning and comparative psychology that have familiarized him with
animals. Research in this specialty includes, for instance, the study
of models of mouse behavior that could be useful in correcting problem
behavior in humans, and studies of the cognizance and memory capabilities
of various species.
I often hear it said that our research is having an effect on
the ways in which people view animals, he explained. They
are, however, speaking from a visceral or experiential point of view,
since there is no evidence from research to demonstrate it. Our aim
in the first phase of this research project was to reveal the effect
that acquiring knowledge about the mental faculties of animals can
have on peoples attitudes toward and evaluations of animals.
In the second phase, the objective was to grasp the basic attitudes
and feelings people have toward animals, and to analyze the relationships
between different attitudes.
Subjects for the first phase of the project were selected from
among university students in a course on comparative cognitive science.
Before the course began, the subjects were asked to rate 60 animal
species according to four criteria: mental capacity, sense of affinity,
communicative capability, and utility. A second evaluation questionnaire
was then administered after a three-day intensive lesson on cognitive
development and visual perception among chimpanzees, and changes in
attitude after the lesson were measured.
In addition, a follow-up questionnaire was administered six
months later in order to determine the persistence of the attitude
changes. The results showed major increases in ratings for chimpanzees
in the second questionnaire compared to the first for all four criteria,
whereas no comparable rating increases were seen for any other species.
These results can be seen as indicating that changes in attitudes
toward specific animals can be brought about through acquisition of
knowledge in concentrated lessons. The follow-up questionnaire resulted
in an across-the-board reduction in ratings for all four criteria.
Ratings for mental capacity, sense of affinity, and utility, however,
maintained their higher levels relative to the initial pre-lesson
questionnaire. These results indicate that acquisition of knowledge
can bring about a relatively long-term transformation in attitudes.
The greatest correlations of data in this first phase of the study
linked the mental capacity criterion with utility, and communicative
capability with sense of affinity. Assuming the existence of a causal
relationship between these attitudes, probing more deeply into such
links will reveal more about the psychology behind humans evaluation
of animals. It was the purpose of the second phase of the project
to look into these basic attitudes toward animals.
We began the second phase with a lexicon of 89 vocabulary items
commonly used to express attitudes and feelings toward animals. A
statistical vetting of the initial lexicon restricting it to items
representative of discreet conceptual factors without overlap resulted
in a list of eight Japanese words and expressions, which translate
as: for food, unsanitary, sense of affinity,
risky, intelligent, diligent,
requiring protection and possessing mystique.
These eight items can be seen as representative of factors linked
by relationships that can be studied. For instance, we can imagine
a psychological inhibition on associating the item for food
with animals already associated with sense of affinity
and requiring protection.
Taniuchi is currently working on clarifying the associations among
Disputes and lack of understanding among people regarding animals
are the cause of numerous problems. These problems include controversies
over conservation efforts for specific animals and over living with
pets in apartment and condominium buildings, as well as differing
cultural conceptions of and attitudes toward animals. By elucidating
the links among the eight conceptual factors, it should be possible
to learn more about the underlying psychology and promote mutual understanding.
In an experiment designed to encourage reclusive children to
enjoy the outside world again, the students in our laboratory have
invited such children to play with dogs, ride horses, and observe
dolphins, noted Professor Ohta. These efforts have met
with success rates of 20%, 30%, and 50%, respectively. Having heard
of Mr. Taniuchis research, I've become interested in whether
we might be able to increase those success rates by showing the children
videos of dolphins before inviting them out. This research abounds
in potential applications. I look forward to seeing how Mr. Taniuchis
work progresses in future.
A study toward establishing effective dog training
A Neuroscientific Understanding of Dog Training to
Develop Better Interactions between Humans and Dogs
Researcher, New Institute of Animal Science
Approximately 11.14 million dogs currently live in Japanese households
(according to a fiscal 2003 study by the Pet Food Manufacturers Association,
Japan), and the number is increasing year by year. As relationships
between humans and dogs thus deepen, a number of new issues are emerging.
Among the causes are problem behaviors such as excessive barking and
physical aggression, which are factors behind a recent increase in
dog abandonment. Compared with Europe and the United States, awareness
of dog training in Japanese society is still rather low. Taking this
state of affairs into consideration, Otanis research group conducted
a study on the effectiveness of dog training methods.
In the neurological pathway by which stimulation is transmitted
in animals, stimulus is first applied to the organism from the external
environment, and the corresponding information is received by the
upper central nervous system and transmitted to the hypothalamus,
began Otani. A biological reaction is then brought about through
the autonomic nervous system, that is, the sympathetic and parasympathetic
nerves. We decided to determine whether normal biological reactions
were taking place by measuring urine concentrations of catecholamine,
an index for the assessment of autonomic nervous activity.
The experiment was divided broadly into three phases. In the
first, urine samples were taken from the subjects before and after
training in obedience of basic commands such as Sit, Wait,
and Down. The samples were then tested for noradrenaline
(NA) and adrenaline (A) concentrations. The results showed normal
correlations in NA and A levels before and after training.
In the next phase of the experiment, individuals were divided
into a group exhibiting aggressive behavior, another that barked excessively,
and a control group, Otani explained. Urine samples were
taken at rest, and then after exercise stress consisting of running
at about 25 kilometers per hour for 20 to 30 minutes. As expected,
NA and A levels in both sets of samples from the control group correlated
normally. The results for the groups exhibiting problem behavior were
clearly different from the normal post-exercise levels found in the
control group samples. Abnormalities such as unusually high NA concentrations
at rest were detected, and no correlations comparable to those of
the control group were found.
Otani thus indicated the possibility that dogs exhibiting problem
behavior suffer from some sort of defect in certain autonomic nervous
In addition, we also tested a group of subjects that had previously
exhibited problem behavior, which had improved to some extent after
the dogs underwent obedience training, she continued. The
results showed that the low rate of correlations in NA and A levels
in urine samples taken at rest improved during training to the point
that they were close to those of the control group. We would now like
to further examine whether problem behavior resulting from defects
in autonomic nervous system responses can be improved by correcting
the underlying defect.
Otani believes that in developing more effective training methods
and bringing about early improvement of problem behavior, it will
be crucial to raise the level of training among pet dogs. These methods
can also be adapted to high-level training such as that for service
dogs. By observing autonomic nervous system responses to basic training,
it may be possible to more rapidly carry out the selection process
that determines which dogs have the aptitude for assistive service.
It takes lengthy and rigorous training to produce an assistant
dog, said Professor Mori, expressing his anticipation for future
progress. Among candidates undergoing training to become guide
dogs for the blind, fewer than half graduate. Its a pity to
see a candidate fail as the lack of potential emerges in training,
and this also represents a major waste of effort and expense for the
humans involved. From this perspective, the idea of noninvasively
measuring levels of catecholamine in urine in order to gauge a dogs
appropriateness for service is an extremely interesting approach.
As sufficient data accumulates, it may become possible to scientifically
review and improve methods of training service dogs.
The possibility of companion animals supporting the
self-esteem of elderly people
The Effects of Companion Animals that Ease Grief of the Bereaved Elderly
Instructor of Gerontological Nursing, Aichi Prefectural College
of Nursing & Health
The death of a spouse is a common experience among
the elderly. The accompanying bereavement is known as a cause of negative
feelings such as depression, a sense of despair, and loneliness. As
indicated in the title of her report, Tanaka undertook research to
determine whether the effects of such bereavement are alleviated through
positive feelings resulting from contact with companion animals.
We administered a questionnaire to subjects aged 65 to 74, and
received 760 valid responses, she explained. In determining
the effects of bereavement on affirmative feelings experienced in
everyday life, we found that levels of several criteria had been suppressed,
namely, a sense of usefulness, self-esteem and enthusiasm, in order
of seriousness. Four criteria showed particularly serious decreases
in subjects who had lost a spouse three years or less previously.
These were, from the greatest decline to the least: a sense of usefulness,
a sense of being loved, a sense of making a contribution, and a sense
of purposefulness in life.
Next, we looked into the affirmative feelings that companion
animals impart to the elderly in everyday life. No statistically significant
difference emerged from a simple division of subjects into pet owners
and those without pets, which demonstrated the importance of another
factor: the degree of importance the subject places on the relationship
with the companion animal. Among subjects with qualitatively strong
relationships with their pets, there was a marked effect on six criteria.
These were, from the greatest improvement to the least: a sense of
being loved, a sense of being protected, enthusiasm, self-esteem,
a sense of usefulness, and a sense of purposefulness in life.
We studied four facets of the subjects relationships with
their companion animals: responsibility for care and feeding, time
spent in the same room with the pet, emotional attachment to the pet,
and the degree of difference between the positive and stressful experiences
of living with a pet. We discovered that time spent in the same room
with the pet correlated particularly highly with increases in positive
feelings among the elderly.
Studies of gerontological nursing care have shown that for the
elderly, an enthusiasm for life and sense of purpose, as well as the
sense of protecting something precious and exchanging feelings of
affection, are all crucial in maintaining self esteem on top of a
sense of usefulness and self-worth. That is to say, our results indicate
that time spent in a room with a companion animal is more important
than any of the other factors studied in maintaining self-esteem among
There has been a trend in recent years toward promoting animal-assisted
activities at facilities such as those for the elderly. But it is
hard to say that the best results can be obtained from sporadic visits
or special events, she concluded. Creating an environment
conducive to the raising of pets at elder care facilities, just as
families do at home, is a crucial element in bringing about more positive
feelings among the elderly on a daily basis.
The topic Ms. Tanaka has taken on is one that has long been
the subject of research in Europe and the United States, and I think
it is wonderful that this kind of data has now been obtained in Japan
as well, remarked Professor Ohta. This represents major
progress. We now have further research results indicating that its
not enough simply to be in the presence of a companion animal, but
that the significance of keeping a pet depends upon whether or not
the person feels affection toward the animal.