Behavioral Research Blog

Adolescent Motherhood – observing mother-infant behavior

Jul 25, 2014 10:00:00 AM

Teenagers have the perfect life, right? Living at mom and dad’s, eating without worrying about gaining weight, and relaxing all the way through high school. Unfortunately, not all adolescents have an easy-peasy life. Some have to study to achieve good grades and others have to deal with grownup problems on top of dealing with the emotional ups and downs of adolescence. What about teenage moms? Next to dealing with a newborn, adolescent mothers are tackling their transition to adulthood (taking more distance from parental figures) and the transition to parenthood (the nurturing of an infant and caring for his or her physical and emotional needs). This is called the double risk for mother and infant, inherent in adolescent motherhood. (Riva Crugnola et al. 2014)

Double risk – invest in a solution

Current research from Prof. Cristina Riva Crugnola, University of Milano-Bicocca tells us that adolescent mothers as well as their babies (vs. adult mother and infant interactions) spent more time in negative engagement, meaning that the mothers showed more pushy behaviors towards the infant, even hostility. The infant also showed more negative behaviors, such as protesting with expressions of anger and crying. 

Riva Crugnola and colleagues state that it is important to train skills and competence in adolescent mother-infant interaction by setting up prevention programs. Young mothers should be supported in learning how to be a mother and regulating emotions (in particular, negative ones). Also, timing is everything - the researchers explain that it is also important to start preventive intervention in the first months of life.

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Topics: The Observer XT, infant behavior, Observation lab, parent-infant dyads, adolescent behavior

How an internal clock gene can alter innate behaviors in mice

Jul 24, 2014 2:00:00 PM

Some might argue that laboratory mice are not the same as wild mice, yet they remain capable of performing the innate, routine behaviors necessary to survive in natural environments, such as courtship, nest-building, and exploratory activities. Still, their ‘non-natural’ (read: laboratory) environment may limit them in the expression of these behaviors, something we recently addressed in these blog posts.

Circadian rhythmicity

The internal circadian clock is of fundamental importance for animals to anticipate recurring events and ensuring basic behaviors, such as  gathering food and building a nest, occur in time. One of the ways we influence the animal’s natural capacity to perform these and other innate behaviors is by altering the light/dark cycle in a laboratory setting.

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Topics: EthoVision XT, mice, Video tracking, circadian rhytmicity, sociability test, marble burying

5 reasons why you should go to Measuring Behavior 2014

Jul 14, 2014 9:28:00 AM

Measuring Behavior is an international multidisciplinary conference which takes place every two years. This August it is in Wageningen, in the Netherlands. If you are a behavioral researcher, you really ought to attend. Why?

1.    The diverse, multidisciplinary program. The scientific program contains contributions focusing on purely scientific aspects (issues of replicability, dynamic aspects of behavior) and applied research (animal welfare), human behavior (eye trackers in consumer research) and animal (rodent behavior), technical sessions (video tracking of social animals and recognition of human behaviors from video), sessions presenting the latest technology (3D simulators) and topics that are of relevance to everyone (eating behavior of people). The above list just scratches the surface of what promises to be a very diverse and interesting three days.

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Topics: animal behavior research, emotion recognition, animal welfare, methods and techniques, Automating behavioral observations, human behavior research, consumer behavior, behavioral research

Why do we drink less when watching gut-wrenching movies?

Jul 7, 2014 3:13:30 PM

It has never been said that humans are immune to the emotional effects of lying, stealing, and cheating, but the majority of us are not easily fazed since we encounter this type of thing every day. It might only be a fragment of a movie we are watching: morally offensive acts such as crime and deception are all around us on the news, in the papers, and on the streets.

In a recent study, Cindy Chan and her colleagues (Department of Marketing, Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania) posed the question: How does exposure to moral violations influence consumption? The researchers explain that, for example, people may drink less coffee while reading the Sunday paper’s exposé of corporate fraud, a violation of ethical business practices. Or people may consume less candy at the theater while watching Wall Street, a film that portrays destruction, crime, and greed.

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Topics: emotion recognition, FaceReader, Neuromarketing, consumer behavior research, emotions

5 reasons to visit FENS Forum of Neuroscience 2014

Jul 1, 2014 9:28:14 AM

Imagine networking with 6,000 fellow neuroscientists in the most vibrant and trendy city of Italy – Milan! Now add inspiring scientific presentations, satellite events, and a dozen of networking events…who could pass up on that opportunity? Not convinced yet? Here are 5 reasons why you should attend FENS Forum in Milan!

(1) Get your game face on!

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Topics: Video tracking, zebrafish, Danio rerio

Interspecific aggression: spotted dolphins vs. bottlenose dolphins

Jun 30, 2014 2:13:37 PM

In the animal kingdom, competition is a part of life. Dominance hierarchies are common both within a group in a species (intergroup) or between two different species (interspecific). These hierarchies often result in aggression as the groups fight for dominance. It would make sense, therefore, that two species who are similar in status in the dominance hierarchy would have an unstable relationship and therefore engage in interspecific aggression continuously over time. One example of two species consistently engaging in interspecific aggression to establish dominance would be the Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) and Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus).

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Topics: The Observer XT, behavioral research, dolphin

The welfare of therapy dogs

Jun 25, 2014 10:32:00 AM

As anyone who owns a pet could probably tell you, animals are great comforts to their human partners. The relationship between animal and human can go beyond just pet and owner, however, and become a therapeutic relationship. For example, dogs have been used with adult substance abuse patients in animal-assisted interventions (AAIs) and animal-assisted therapy (AAT). Why use dogs in therapy? They can be a good motivator for participation in an intervention and become a source of trust and comfort to the patient, thus improving the chance of therapy success. There has been a lot of research done on the impact that using dogs in therapy can have on humans. But what about the effect it has on the welfare of the dogs?

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Topics: The Observer XT, animal-human interaction, dogs, animal welfare

How to measure emotions in pigs

Jun 23, 2014 3:00:00 PM

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about why social pigs do better. This week, one of the researchers in this project, Inonge Reimert explains about the novel object/novel environment test they performed.

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Topics: EthoVision XT, Video tracking, The Observer XT, animal welfare, pigs, emotions

6 things you must consider to improve your open field testing

Jun 12, 2014 12:00:00 PM

Last week we talked about the new publication by Berry Spruijt and his colleagues in Journal of Neuroscience Methods, in which they tell us about the limitations of classical behavioral tests such as the open field. The article focused particularly on the great lack of reliability and validity in the use of these tests within and across laboratories. So what can we do to fix this problem? Here are six recommendations the authors list to improve the translational and predictive value of behavioral readouts:

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Topics: EthoVision XT, mice, Video tracking, open field test, rats, PhenoTyper, Delta Phenomics

The do’s and don’ts in behavioral testing: improve your open field test

Jun 5, 2014 12:00:00 PM

Scientists have been performing open field tests for  quite some time now. For eighty years, to be exact. And over the years it has become one of the most popular tests in rodent behavioral research, as it allows the researcher to study (locomotor) activity, exploration, and anxiety all in one test environment. So what’s not to love? It’s easy, short, and straight-forward. Plus, it is a highly validated test…or is it?

In their recent review in Journal of Neuroscience Methods, Berry Spruijt (Professor of Ethology and Animal Welfare, Utrecht University, the Netherlands) and his colleagues tell us that, like most of the popular classical tests, it is actually not well validated. This is a well-known problem in behavioral research. In fact, specific for the open field test, there seems to be a lack of reliability and validity. Despite all the efforts labs put into standardizing their methods and procedures, there is still a great amount of variability in behavioral results within and across laboratories.

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Topics: EthoVision XT, mice, Video tracking, open field test, rats, PhenoTyper, Delta Phenomics

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