Petting dogs could help relieve stress

It’s often said that dogs are man’s best friend… and a new study seems to prove it.

Petting dogs leads to increasingly higher levels of activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, according to researchers from the University of Basel in Switzerland.

“The present study demonstrates that prefrontal brain activity in healthy subjects increases with an increase in interactional proximity with a dog or a stuffed animal, but it is especially in contact with the dog that the activation is stronger. “, write the authors. “This indicates that interactions with a dog might activate more attentional processes and elicit stronger emotional arousal than comparable non-living stimuli. »

For the study, the team measured activity in the brain’s prefrontal cortex using neuroimaging technology as 19 participants each watched a dog, lay with the same dog against their legs We stroked the animal.

Each of these conditions was also performed with Leo, a stuffed lion with fur that was filled with a water bottle to match the temperature and weight of the dogs.

“Results showed that prefrontal brain activity was greatest when participants interacted with the real dogs, and was greatest for petting, which was the most interactive condition,” they said. Another key difference was that prefrontal brain activity increased each time people interacted with the real dog. This was not observed during successive interactions with the stuffed lion, indicating that the response could be related to familiarity or social connection. »

In the future, the team hopes to investigate how these findings may have implications for animal-assisted clinical therapy.

The full study results have been published in PLOS ONE.

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