Face pictures reduce behavioural, autonomic, endocrine and neural indices of stress and fear in sheep

AP da Costa, AE Leigh, MS Man, KM Kendrick*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

94 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Faces are highly emotive stimuli and we find smiling or familiar faces both attractive and comforting, even as young babies. Do other species with sophisticated face recognition skills, such as sheep, also respond to the emotional significance of familiar faces? We report that when sheep experience social isolation, the sight of familiar sheep face pictures compared with those of goats or inverted triangles significantly reduces behavioural (activity and protest vocalizations), autonomic (heart rate) and endocrine (cortisol and adrenaline) indices of stress. They also increase mRNA expression of activity-dependent genes (c-fos and zif/268) in brain regions specialized for processing faces (temporal and medial frontal cortices and basolateral amygdala) and for emotional control (orbitoftontal and cingulate cortex), and reduce their expression in regions associated with stress responses (hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus) and fear (central and lateral amygdala). Effects on face recognition, emotional control and fear centres are restricted to the right brain hemisphere. Results provide evidence that face pictures may be useful for relieving stress caused by unavoidable social isolation in sheep, and possibly other animal species, including humans. The finding that sheep, like humans, appear to have a right brain hemisphere involvement in the control of negative emotional experiences also suggests that functional lateralization of brain emotion systems may be a general feature in mammals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2077-2084
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume271
Issue number1552
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2004

Keywords

  • face attraction
  • stress
  • fear
  • temporal cortex
  • amygdala
  • emotion
  • EMOTION RECOGNITION
  • HUMAN AMYGDALA
  • ROMANTIC LOVE
  • C-FOS
  • EXPRESSION
  • BRAIN
  • SCHIZOPHRENIA
  • CORTISOL
  • HORMONE

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