Increase Brainwaves for Stress Relief and Heightened Concentration – With Your Best Friend

EEG scans show specific changes in brain activity while petting, walking, and playing with “Man’s Best Friend.” Spending quality time with dogs reduces stress and increases the power of brain waves associated with relaxation and concentration, says a study published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Onyoo Yoo from Konkuk University, South Korea, and colleagues.

Canine and other animal therapies are often used in hospitals and schools to help reduce anxiety and relieve stress. Most studies regarding animal interactions take a holistic approach, comparing people’s mood or hormone levels before and after spending time with a service animal. To understand how such animal-related activities affect mood, researchers recruited 30 adult participants to each perform eight different activities with a well-trained dog, including playing with a hand-held toy, giving them treats, and taking pictures with the dog. Participants wore electroencephalography (EEG) electrodes to record electrical activity from the brain during interaction and recorded their subjective emotional state immediately following each activity.

The author’s dog, Murphy. May he rest in peace.

The relative strength of alpha-band oscillations in the brain increased while interacting with a dog, reflecting relaxed wakefulness. When grooming, gently massaging, or playing with the dog, relative beta-band oscillation strength increased, a boost linked to heightened concentration. Participants also reported feeling less fatigued, depressed, and stressed after all the activities.

The unique relationships between specific activities and their effects could serve as a reference for programming targeted animal-assisted interventions in the future.

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