About this Research Topic
This Research Topic comprises articles focusing on the neurobiological bases of social cognition in non-human animals, with an emphasis on the neurobiological mechanisms of human-animal bonding.
The bond between humans and different species has been receiving an increasing interest from the scientific community. Studies on this topic usually feature one of two types of animal groups. Some of them focus on domestic species, which have been selected to live in human environments and share different experiences with people during their ontogeny. On the other hand, other studies evaluate animals from non-domestic species, but which have received different levels of socialization with people, such as those living in zoos, sanctuaries and laboratories.
The interaction between humans and some animals could bring significant benefits to both species, such as a decrease in stress levels and an increment of positive feelings. Moreover, this bond has allowed for the development of several activities, such as Animal Assisted Interventions, in which animals are employed to enhance people’s quality of life in clinical, educational and recreative contexts.
As a corollary of this special relationship, some of these animals have acquired a set of extraordinary communicative skills which they display in their everyday interactions in human environments. These abilities may include, for example, the capacity to follow human communicative cues to find rewards, gazing at human faces when dealing with unsolvable tasks for them, synchronizing their behaviors with them and the recognition of human emotional expressions.
However, the study of the neurobiological bases of this human-animal bond is still incipient. Most works on this area focus on domestic dogs and it is a current challenge to expand the research to other species. Some of the most employed methodologies include studying the role of different hormones on this bond, such as oxytocin and cortisol. Additionally, non-invasive neuroimaging techniques are being used to gather valuable information about the different areas involved in human-animal interactions. Finally, advances in behavioral genetics are beginning to enlighten the development and expression of these phenomena.
Research on the characteristics and mechanisms of the bond between humans and other species is a promising field of study due to the relevance that animals have in our society. Recent studies in the domains hereby described will be selected for the present proposal. We accept original research articles, short communications and reviews.
Keywords: social cognition, bonding, communication, neurobiology, domestic dogs
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