Positive emotions and control over behaviour are core components of animal welfare
Louk Vanderschuren
social play

The young of many mammalian species display a vigorous form of social behaviour, termed social play behaviour. This behaviour is highly rewarding and it is of great importance for brain development.

We investigate the neurobiology of social play behaviour in rats, in particular its rewarding and motivational properties, as well as its importance for the development of a rich and flexible behavioural repertoire. Being a natural reward that is suppressed under adverse circumstances, and important for development of brain and behaviour, we regard social play as an indicator of, and tool to stimulate animal welfare.

Addictive behaviour
Impairments in impulse control and decision making have been implicated in a wide variety of maladaptive behaviours in animals, such as skin damaging behaviour and inappropriate aggression, and certain mental disorders in humans. Therefore, we investigate the neural mechanisms of impulsive behaviour and decision making, as well as their relationship with social development and addictive behaviour.

Addiction is a mental disorder characterised by a loss of control over substance intake, which results from malfunction of the neural mechanisms of emotions, learning and cognitive control-mechanisms important for adaptive behaviour in general. Therefore, knowledge of the brain mechanisms of addictive behaviour contributes to understanding the brain malfunctions that contribute to compromised animal welfare.

  • J.P. (Jacques) Flores Dourojeanni, MSc
  • J.P.H. (Jeroen) Verharen, MSc