Personal profile

Research interests

I research the links between affective (emotional) and cognitive processes, in particular the ways in which attention, memory and decision-making both influence and are influenced by affective state. Our current BBSRC-funded work investigates affect-induced modulation of decision-making - 'cognitive biases' - and its utility as a novel indicator of animal affect and welfare. I work with psychologists Dr Liz Paul and Prof Iain Gilchrist, computational welfare biologist Dr Vikki Neville, and PhD students Molly Davidson and Nick Cherbanich. We collaborate with theoretical and computational neuroscientist Prof Peter Dayan to use computational modelling methods in both animals and humans to understand the links between affective state and decision-making.

I am also interested in the evolution and function of affective states and sentience, developing new measures of animal emotion and welfare (including automated / machine learning methods), and understanding more about animal cognition, emotion, personality (especially individual differences in resilience), social behaviour, and the influence of early experience on development. Some of these topics are the focus of a number of current grant-funded projects and PhD studentships listed below.

I head the Bristol Vet School Animal Welfare and Behaviour Research Community, and led the UK Animal Welfare Research Network for its first 6 years before handing over to Dr Gareth Arnott who is leading it through its next 3. AWRN continues to be excellently managed by Dr Poppy Statham who is based in Bristol. Please join us at I am a member of various grant panels (e.g. UKRI FLF, BBSRC) and advisory bodies (e.g. International Scientific Advisory Board of INRAE metaprogramme on Health & Welfare of Farmed Livestock), and on the Editorial Board of the new journal Affective Science.


Current projects

BBSRC: Individual differences in affective processing and implications for animal welfare: a reaction norm approach. In this new grant, we (Mike Mendl (PI), Liz Paul, Vikki Neville and collaborators Peter Dayan (Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Tubingen), Shinichi Nakagawa (UNSW, Sydney), Hanno Wurbel & Bernhard Voelkl (University Bern), and Chadi Touma (University Osnabruck) will combine computational, statistical and reaction norm approaches to investigate how individual differences in decision-making predict resilience and coping ability.

BBSRC: AI to monitor changes in social behaviour for the early detection of disease in dairy cattle. This collaborative project (PI: Andy Dowsey; Co-Is: Suzanne Held, Mike Mendl, Daniel Enriquez-Hidalgo, Kristen Reyher, Neill Campbell, Tilo Burghardt) investigates whether AI computer vision techniques can capture changes in cattle behaviour that predict early subclinical disease.

Wild Animal Initiative: Social connections and their welfare implications in the wild. This project, led by Alex Thornton (Exeter University), will investigate how social behaviour and interactions can influence and moderate affective state and welfare in wild jackdaws. 

BBSRC: Animal affect, welfare and decision-making: a computational modelling approach. We (Mike Mendl (PI), Liz Paul, Vikki Neville and collaborator Peter Dayan (MPI Biological Cybernetics)) are using computational modelling approaches to understand the links between affective state and decision-making in rodents to aid interpretation and refinement of the judgement bias method for assessing animal affect and welfare.

BBSRC: Animal Welfare Research Network (AWRN) - Phase III. With new AWRN lead Gareth Arnott (QUB), Poppy Statham continues to manage the AWRN from Bristol as it enters its third phase (yrs 7-9), and Mike remains on the Coordinating Group.

NC3Rs: Refinement of tickling protocols to improve positive animal welfare in laboratory rats. This project led by Alistair Lawrence (PI - SRUC) and run day-to-day by Vincent Bombail, aims to test whether modifying rat tickling protocols can generate more consistently positive effects across individuals.

NC3Rs: Do male mice prefer to live on their own? With Emma Robinson (PI) and Jennifer Davies (Physiology, Pharmacology & Neuroscience), we are investigating the effects of different social housing conditions on the behaviour and welfare of male mice.

PIGWEB TransNational Access Collaborative Grant: Towards on-farm in situ assessment of pig emotion and welfare. With collaborators Liesbeth Bolhuis and Inonge Reimert (Wageningen UR), we (Mike Mendl (PI), Vikki Neville) are aiming to develop a practicable on-farm judgement bias task for pigs.

Dogs Trust: Use of long-chained aliphatic aldehydes in ameliorating separation-related anxiety in dogs. In this project, we will assess the effectiveness of specific odours at decreasing anxiety-like states in dogs owned by the public. Emily Blackwell and I are working with Emma Robinson (PI) and Jennifer Davies (Physiology, Pharmacology & Neuroscience).


PhD students

  • Molly Davidson (Supervisors: Mike Mendl, Liz Paul, Iain Gilchrist (Psychology), Vikki Neville, John Fennell) - Animal emotion and welfare: a decision making and computational approach
  • Kathy Anzuino (Supervisors: Rose Grogono-Thomas, Toby Knowles, Mike Mendl) - Identifying constraints to health and productivity in UK dairy goat farming
  • Melissa Fallon (Supervisors: Emily Blackwell, Mike Mendl) - The effects of impulse control training exercises on reducing impulsive behaviour and improving rehoming rates in dogs
  • Nick Cherbanich (Supervisors: Mike Mendl, Iain Gilchrist, Liz Paul, Vikki Neville) - The predicting individual: expectations and their influence on emotional state and welfare.
  • Jillian Hendricks (Supervisors: Mike Mendl, Ben Lecorps) - Hunger, learning and welfare in dairy calves 
  • Caitlin Warburn (Supervisors: Mike Mendl, Vikki Neville, Emily Blackwell) - Improving pet rat welfare, lifespan and owner health

Some recent papers

Neville, V., Mendl, M., Paul, E.S., Series, P. & Dayan, P. (2023). A primer on the use of computational modelling to investigate affective states, affective disorders and animal welfare in non-human animals. Cognitive and Affective Behavioral Neuroscience.

Neville, V., Lind, J., Mendl, E., Cozma, N.E., Paul, E.S. & Mendl, M. (2023). A mapping review of refinements to laboratory housing and husbandry. Nature Lab Animal.

Paul, E.S., Browne, W., Mendl, M.T., Caplen, G., Held, S., Trevarthen, A. & Nicol, C.J. (2023). Affective trajectories: are hens influenced by positive and negative changes in their living conditions? Applied Animal Behaviour Science 261, 105883.

Kappel, S., Ramirez Montes de Oca, M.A., Collins, S., Herborn, K., Mendl, M. & Fureix, C. (2023). Do you see what I see? Testing horses’ ability to recognise real-life objects from 2D computer projections. Animal Cognition.

de Lima, A.F., Lima, S.G.C., Nogueiro-Filho, S.L.G., Held, S.D.E., Mendl, M., Nogueira, S.S.C. (2023). Object play as a positive emotional state indicator for farmed spotted paca (Cuniculus paca). Animals 14, 78.

Altino, V.S., Rezende, D.C.B., Nogueira, S.S.C., Aldrigui, L.G., Roldan, M., Duarte, J.M.B., Fureix, C., Mendl, M. & Nogueira-Filho, S.L.G. (2023). Validation of complementary non-invasive tools for stress assessment in spotted paca (Cuniculus paca). Animal Welfare 32, e54, 1-10.

Meira, J.E.S., Nogueira-Filho, S.L.G., Mendl, M., Lima, S.G.C., Fureix, C. & Nogueira, S.S.C. (2023). Responses to environmental enrichment are associated with personality characteristics in chestnut-bellied seed finches (Sporophila angolensis). Behavioural Processes 204, 104801.

Mendl, M., Neville, V. & Paul, E.S. (2022). Bridging the gap: human emotions and animal emotions. Affective Science

Paul, E.S., Browne, W., Mendl, M.T., Caplen, G., Trevarthen, A., Held, S. & Nicol, C.J. (2022). Assessing animal welfare: a triangulation of preference, judgement bias and other candidate welfare indicators. Animal Behaviour 186, 151-177.

Smith, M.I., Mendl, M.T. & Murrell, J.C. (2022). Associations between osteoarthritis and duration and quality of night-time rest in dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 253, 105661.

Neville, V., Mounty, J., Benato, L., Hunter, K., Mendl, M. & Paul, E.S. (2022). Thinking outside the lab: can studies of pet rats inform pet and laboratory rat welfare? Applied Animal Behaviour Science 246, 105507.

Fureix, C., Trevarthen, A.C., Finnegan, E.M., Buckova, K., Paul, E.S. & Mendl, M.T. (2022). Do greater levels of in-cage waking inactivity in laboratory mice reflect a spontaneous depression-like symptom? A pharmacological investigation. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior 212, 173311.

Lima, D, Lima, S.C.G., Nogeuira-Filho, S.L.G., Held, S., Paul, E., Mendl, M. & Nogueira, S.S.C. (2022). Vocal expression of emotions in farmed spotted paca (Cuniculus paca). Applied Animal Behaviour Science 105753.

Neville, V., Lecorps, B. & Mendl, M. (2022). Good science requires better animal welfare. Science 376, 809. 1126/science.abq7198

Bombail, V., Brown, S.M., Martin, J.E., Meddle, S.L., Mendl, M., Robinson, E.S.J., Hammond, T.J., Nielsen, B.L., LaFollette, M.R., Vinuela-Fernandez, I., Tivey, E.K.L. & Lawrence, A.B. (2022). Stage 1 Registered Report: Refinement of tickling protocols to improve positive animal welfare in laboratory rats [version 2; peer review: 2 approved] F1000Research 2022, 11:1053

Neville, V.M., Hunter, K., Benato, L., Mendl, M. & Paul, E.S. (2022). Developing guidelines for pet rat housing through expert consultation. Veterinary Record 2022; e1839.

Hernandez-Cruz, G., Ferreira, R.G., Rooney, N.J., Guidi, R.D., do Rego, R.D.P., Costa, T.S.F., Klefasz, A., Oliveira, W.F., Gaio, F.C., Duarte, N.F.H., Viana, V.D. & Mendl, M. (2022). Haematology, physiological parameters, morphometry and parasitological status of rescued bearded capuchin monkeys (Sapajus libidinosus). Journal of Medical Primatology

Mellor, E.L., Mendl, M., Mason, G., Davison, C., van Zeeland, Y. & Cuthill, I.C. (2022). Validating owner-reporting of feather condition of pet Psittaciformes using photographs. Animal Welfare 31, 163-173.


Recently completed grants

BBSRC Partnering Award: Welfare and health assessment of managed neotropical mammals in Brazil: developing strategies for sustainable food production. This project led by Mike Mendl (PI) united Bristol Veterinary School researchers with colleagues in Brazil (Selene Nogueira, Sergio Nogueira-Filho (Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz); Adroaldo Zanella (USP), Renata Ferreira (Universidade Federal de Rio Grande do Norte)) to research human-wildlife issues, including wildlife welfare and wildlife-road traffic interactions.

UFAW: Is flight important to the welfare of captive birds? With Innes Cuthill (Biological Sciences), Emma MellorGeorgia Mason (University of Guelph) and Yvonne van Zeeland (University of Utrecht), we used phylogenetic comparative methods to investigate the links between species' flight dependency and measures of welfare problems in captivity, focusing on parrots as an exemplar clade.

BBSRC: Validating inactivity in the home-cage as a depression-like state indicator in mice. With Carole Fureix (Co-I Plymouth), we (Anna Davies, Emily Finnegan, Liz Paul and Mike Mendl (PI)) investigated the use of waking inactivity as a spontaneous behaviour measure of depression like states in mice. 

UFAW: Developing new thermographic methods to assess emotional valence by measuring thermal lateralization. We (Helena Telkanranta, Becky Whay, Liz Paul and Mike Mendl (PI)) investigated the use of thermal imaging as an indicator of affective valence, arousal and welfare in cattle and chickens.

Previous lab members

If you are interested in joining our research group, contact me at: [email protected]

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  • Animal Welfare and Behaviour


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