Posts tagged with "Sweden"

All shook up: A dog feels its owner’s stress

June 7, 2019

Dogs don’t just love riding in cars: they come along on our emotional journeys, too. In fact, the levels of stress in dogs correlates with the stress of their owners, according to a new study from Linköping University, Sweden,  published on June 6 in the journal Scientific Reports.

Previous work has shown that individuals of the same species can mirror each other’s emotional states. There is, for example, a correlation between long-term stress in children and in their mothers.

But scientists also have speculated whether different species also can reflect each other’s tension—such as humans and dogs.  To answer that question, the Swedish researchers tracked stress levels over several months by measuring the concentration of a stress hormone, cortisol, in a few centimeters of hair from the dog and from its owner.

“We found that the levels of long-term cortisol in the dog and its owner were synchronized, such that owners with high cortisol levels have dogs with high cortisol levels, while owners with low cortisol levels have dogs with low levels,” says Ann-Sofie Sundman of the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology (IFM) at LiU, as well as principal author of the study and newly promoted doctor of Ethology.

The study examined 25 border collies and 33 Shetland sheepdogs—all of them, owned by women. The owners and the dogs provided hair samples on two occasions, a few months apart.

Since physical activity can increase cortisol levels, the researchers also wanted to compare companion dogs with dogs that competed in obedience or agility. The physical activity levels of the dogs were therefore recorded for a week using an activity collar.

Previous research has shown that levels of short-term cortisol in saliva rise in a synchronous manner in both the dog and its owner when they compete together. The study presented here, in contrast, found that physical activity in dogs does not affect the long-term cortisol in their hair. On the other hand, the stress level of competing dogs seems to be linked more strongly with that of the owner. The scientists speculate that this may be associated with a higher degree of active interaction between the owner and the dog when they train and compete together.

The dog owners were also asked to complete two validated questionnaires related to their own and their dog’s personality. The researchers investigated whether stress levels are correlated with personality traits.

Surprisingly enough, we found no major effect of the dog’s personality on long-term stress. The personality of the owner, on the other hand, had a strong effect. This has led us to suggest that the dog mirrors its owner’s stress,” says senior lecturer Lina Roth, also at IFM, and principal investigator for the study.

The result suggests that the match between an owner and a dog affects the dog’s stress level. Further studies are, however, needed before we can draw any conclusions about the cause of the correlation. The researchers are now planning to study other breeds. Both the border collie and the Shetland sheepdog are herding dogs, which have been bred to collaborate well with humans and respond accurately and quickly to signals.

The research group is planning to investigate whether a similar synchronization takes place between dogs and humans in, for example, hunting dogs, which have been trained to be independent. Another line of research will look at whether the sex of the owner plays a role.

“If we learn more about how different types of dog are influenced by humans, it will be possible to match dog and owner in a way that is better for both, from a stress-management point of view. It may be that certain breeds are not so deeply affected if their owner has a high stress level,” says Lina Roth.

Research contact: @liu_universitet

A museum to visit on an empty stomach

November 5, 2018

When your entry ticket to a museum is actually a vomit bag—similar to the one you would use on an airplane—you might be just a little daunted, even before you see the displays. And no, it’s not a gag—although several visitors at the pop-up exhibition already have gagged.

The Disgusting Food Museum in Malmo, Sweden, knows some of its guests may be queasy when they are confronted with carefully curated sheep eyeball juice, bull testicles, maggot-infested cheese, a dead mouse in Chinese wine, Icelandic fermented shark—and yes, American root beer and Jello salad. Worse yet, most of the food items on display can easily be smelled or tasted.

The museum opened on October 31 and Chief Disgustologist Samuel West told The New York Times that he hopes visitors will be entertained—and also will be disposed to try some of the more sustainable food products that are available, such as insects and lab-grown meat.

West believes that what we now consider to be appetizing or repulsive represents a preference acquired through our own culture; and that such beliefs can change. “Disgust is one of the six fundamental human emotions, and the evolutionary function of disgust is to help us to avoid foods that might dangerous, that are contaminated, toxic, gone off,” he told the Times. “Disgust is hardwired as an emotion, but what we find disgusting is culturally learned.”

He has tried most of the exhibits, himself. He describes eating the Icelandic fermented shark to be “like chewing on a urine-infested mattress,” adding, “It’s a fermented sort of rotten Icelandic shark,” he says. “Anthony Bourdain, the late TV personality, called it the single most disgusting thing he’d ever eaten, and I totally agree with him.”

Australian visitor Nichole Courtney said she was surprised to come across Vegemite, her homeland’s sandwich spread of concentrated yeast extract which is known to divide opinion.

“Things like Vegemite which we find really normal at home, like we’d eat that every day for breakfast, are next to things like the shark that I couldn’t imagine tasting and I think it is revolting so it’s quite funny for us.”

The museum will be open through January 27. Admission is about $20 for adults and free for children.

Research contact: @DisgustingFood