Applications are invited for an exciting project seeking to understand the evolutionary precursors of emotion in an invertebrate species.
The study of animal emotion (affect) is of growing interest in disciplines including neuroscience, psychopharmacology and animal welfare science. Although we cannot measure the conscious component of animal emotion, we can use operational definitions of emotion to allow us to identify and measure behavioural and physiological indicators of such states. To date, nearly all research on animal emotion has been on vertebrates. However, there has been a recent surge of interest in the idea that studying emotion-like processes in invertebrates can provide us with new insights into the evolutionary basis of these states, their underlying neurophysiological mechanisms, and functions that may be conserved across species. So far, invertebrate studies have tended to focus on short-term emotion-like behaviours (e.g. avoidance in crayfish: Fossat et al. 2014. Science 344, 1293-1297; jumping and freezing in flies: Gibson et al. 2015. Curr. Biol. 25, 1401-1415). However, emotional states also include longer-term ‘moods’ which may act to integrate cumulative experience of short-term emotions and thus adaptively inform decisions about positive or negative outcomes in current (especially ambiguous) situations (e.g. Harding et al. 2004. Nature 427, 312; Mendl et al. 2010. Proc Roy Soc. B. 277, 2895-2904). There is now some evidence for such states in insects (Bateson et al. 2011. Curr Biol. 21, 1070-1073; see Mendl et al. Curr. Biol. 21, R463-R465), and this project will further investigate this possibility in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster.
For more information on the PhD see: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/swbio/media/swbio-dtp-project-17.pdf or contact me.
For information on the PhD programme and how to apply, see: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/swbio/projects_available/index_html
My research interests are in the area of animal behaviour and welfare.
I am interested in the links between affective and cognitive processes, in particular the ways in which attention, memory and decision-making both influence and are influenced by affective state. One aim of our current research, in collaboration with psychologist Dr Liz Paul, is to investigate whether affect-induced modulation of decision-making, which leads to so-called 'cognitive bias' in humans, is also observed in animals, and hence can be used as a novel indicator of animal affect (emotion) and welfare.
I am also interested in the evolution and function of affective states, developing new measures of animal emotion and welfare that can be used under field conditions, and understanding more abo ut animal cognition, emotion, personality, and social behaviour with a view to identifying and minimising welfare problems for captive animals.
I also have interests in the influence of early experience and social behaviour (including mother-offspring relations, early husbandry procedures, and 'abnormal behaviours' such as tail-biting in pigs) on behavioural development, an individual's ability to cope with challenge, and animal welfare.
BBSRC: The defence cascade as an indicator of animal welfare in the lab and field (PI: Mike Mendl; Co-Is: Neill Campbell (Computer Science), Bill Browne (Centre for Multilevel Modelling), Emma Robinson (Physiology & Pharmacology), Liz Paul; Named researchers: Poppy Statham, Sion Hannuna; Technician: Beth Loftus). We are developing an automated computer vision approach to measuring rapid defensive movements as indicators of affect and welfare in pigs.
NC3Rs: Development and validation of an automated test of animal affect and welfare for laboratory rodents (PI: Mike Mendl; Co-Is: Liz Paul (Vet Science), Peter Dayan (Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit, UCL), Emma Robinson (Physiology & Pharmacology); Postdoc: Sam Jones). We are developing an automated cognitive bias task for lab rats and mice.
BBSRC: Validation and differentiation of welfare indicators in laying hens (PI: Christine Nicol; Co-Is: Mike Mendl, Bill Browne, Suzanne Held; Named researcher: Liz Paul; Technician: Ilana Kelland). We are investigating how welfare indicators and cognitive bias measures co-vary and reflect long-term cumulative experience of positive and negative events.
BBSRC: Defining a pain phenotype that is predictive of altered central pain processing in dogs with spontaneous osteoarthritis (PI: Jo Murrell; Co-Is: Mike Mendl, Toby Knowles, Becky Whay, Sara Kelly (Nottingham), John Harris (Nottingham); Postdoc: James Hunt; Technician: Helen Jenkins). We are developing methods to measure the pain that dogs affected by osteoarthritis may be experiencing, and how ands why this may differ between individuals.
If you are interested in joining our research group, contact me at: email@example.com
Further information about Professor Michael Mendl can be found here.
I graduated in 1982 with a degree in Natural Sciences from Cambridge University and then stayed on to study for a PhD on mother-offspring relationships and behavioural development supervised by Prof Pat Bateson FRS at the Cambridge Zoology Department's Sub-Department of Animal Behaviour. I completed my PhD in 1986 and was then awarded a Royal Society European Research Fellowship to continue work on behavioural development and individual differences in house mice at Groningen University in the Netherlands. I then returned to Cambridge University and took a postdoc position at the Vet School where I moved into the fields of applied behaviour and animal welfare and was introduced to the intelligence, grace and equipment destroying capabilities of the domestic pig. In 1993, I took up a position as a behavioural scientist at the Scottish Agricultural College in Edinburgh, continuing to work on pig behaviour and welfare, and then moved to Bristol University Vet School in 1997 where I am now Professor of Animal Behaviour and Welfare. and have previously been Head of the Bristol Animal Welfare & Behaviour Group, and Deputy Head of School (Research). At Bristol, my research interests have been in the study of cognition, emotion, development, individuality and social behaviour in domestic animals (pigs, dogs, rats, sheep), with a view to using this information to improve animal welfare, and in more applied animal welfare issues including the relationship between housing and husbandry procedures and the health and welfare of farm and laboratory animals, and understanding abnormal behaviour such as tail-biting in pigs.
View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system
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