Studies combining brain activity measures with behavior have the potential to reveal more about animal cognition than either on their own. However, brain measure procedures in animal studies are often practically challenging and cost-prohibitive. Therefore, we test whether a simple measure of ear temperature can be used to index hemispheric brain activation using a handheld thermoscanner. Cortisol levels are correlated with the activation of the right cortical region, implying that, when stressful situations are experienced, increased right hemisphere activation occurs. This leads to corresponding locally detectable increases in ipsilateral ear temperature.
We compared right- and left-ear temperatures of 32 domestic dogs under non-stressful and partially stressful conditions.
We detected significant elevations in right-ear temperature – but not left-ear temperature – relative to baseline readings in the partially stressful condition that were not detected in the non-stressful condition.
These findings provide encouraging support for the notion that tympanic membrane temperature readings can provide a simple index for canine hemispheric brain activation, which can be combined with data on behavioral decision-making, expectancy violations, or other measures of emotional processing. Devices are cheap, simple to use, portable, and only minimally invasive providing a means for real-time brain and behavior measurements to be conducted in real-world settings.
Maász, Gábor - Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Centre for Ecological Research
Barina, Zoltán - Hungarian Natural History Museum, Department of Botany
Pongrácz, Péter - Eötvös Loránd University, Department of Ethology
Gábriel, Róbert - University of Pécs, Szentágothai Research Centre
Vágvölgyi, Csaba - University of Szeged, Department of Microbiology
Hideg, Éva - University of Pécs, Department of Plant Biology
Solti, Ádám - Eötvös Loránd University, Department of Plan Physiology and Molecular Plant Biology
Erős, Tibor - Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Centre for Ecological Research
Székely, Tamás - University of Bath, University of Debrecen
Dobolyi, Árpád - Eötvös Loránd University, Department of Neurobiology and Physiology
Tamás, Andrea - University of Pécs, Department of Anatomy
Kovács, Tibor - Eötvös Loránd University, Department of Genetics
Serfőző, Zoltán - Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Balaton Limnological Institute
Bede-Fazekas, Ákos - Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Centre for Ecological Research
Bugyi, Beáta - University of Pécs, Department of Biophysics
Fugazza, Claudia - Eötvös Loránd University, Department of Ethology
Chmura, Damjan - University of Bielsko-Biala, Institute of Environmental Protection and Engineering
Neugart, Susanne - Leibniz Institute of Vegetable and Ornamental Crops
Contardo-Jara, Valeska - Technical University of Berlin, Institute of Ecology