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Heart rate variability during a working memory task: does touching a dog or person affect the response?

By N. R. Gee, E. Friedmann, M. Stendahl, A. Fisk, V. Coglitore

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The presence of a dog has been associated with reduced responses to stressors in several, but not all, previous studies. The presence of a dog has also been related to improved performance on some cognitive tasks. The current study was designed to evaluate the effect of touching a dog on stress responses to a working memory task (WMT). Heart rate variability (HRV) responses to a WMT while touching a dog were compared with responses while touching a stuffed dog and a person. HRV was recorded while 53 university students aged 18 to 41 years sat on the floor next to a randomly assigned co-participant (real dog, stuffed dog, or human) and listened to a reading before and after completing a WMT. This procedure was repeated with the two other co-participants, in a randomized block order. All participants wore an HRV monitor and placed their non-dominant hand on the co-participant throughout the appropriate phase. The WMT involved pointing to increasingly complicated sequences of geometric shapes until the participant failed three times at one level. Linear mixed models analysis for nested data revealed that the memory task was stressful, with parasympathetic nervous system arousal significantly lower during the memory task than the preor post-memory listening tasks (rMSSD: ps

Publication Title Anthrozoos
Volume 27
Issue 4
Pages 513-528
ISBN/ISSN 0892-7936
Publisher Bloomsbury Publishing
Language English
Author Address WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, Freeby Lane, Waltham-on-the-Wolds Leicestershire, LE14 ART,
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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Analysis
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal physiology
  4. Animals
  5. Anthrozoology
  6. Canidae
  7. Canine
  8. Carnivores
  9. Diseases and injuries of animals
  10. Dogs
  11. Effect
  12. Heart
  13. Heart rate
  14. Interactions
  15. Mammals
  16. Memory
  17. models
  18. nervous system
  19. peer-reviewed
  20. Pets and companion animals
  21. Physiology and biochemistry
  22. Research
  23. Stress
  24. students
  25. Universities and Colleges
  26. vertebrates
  1. peer-reviewed