Most people love animals. Some people don’t, and those people are clinically confirmed sociopaths or Bill Handel.
It is well established that having pets is correlated with better emotional and physical health outcomes.
Now, a new study shows that animals can have a profound positive effect on people recovering from brain injuries. The study focused on 19 patients with acquired brain injury. Acquired brain injury is the kind you get from an accident or other externally derived trauma (as opposed to a genetic or congenital condition).
When rehabbing a brain injury, clinicians will often use a series of tasks, like cleaning, walking through a maze, or preparing food. What they did in this study is take those tasks, and add an animal. For example: instead of cutting vegetable to make a salad, they would have the patient cut vegetables and feed them to a rabbit. Instead of walking through a maze with a mobility ball, the patient would walk with a mini-pig. Instead of cleaning furniture, the patient cleaned a hamster cage with the hamster there.
This animal assisted therapy always began with the patient greeting the animal, and then the clinician explaining the therapeutic task.
The results were very encouraging. Patients reported twice as many positive emotions during the animal assisted therapy than during conventional tasks. There was more verbal and non-verbal communication as well as higher levels of motivation.
The study was published in the Scientific Reports journal and conducted at The University of Basel, in Switzerland.