1. A University of Chicago (Illinois) study proves empathy in rodents. This study showed that rats who were not trained to do this freed (all on their own) other rats who had been restrained. They do this out of empathy. A similar study found that chickens, too, showed empathy.
2. A dog sentience study at Emory University. Gregory Burns, a neuroscientist and author at Emory conducted a study on dog sentience and found that "caudate activity (in other words, the part of the brain that signals information about things that make us happy, like love or food or music or beauty) in dogs increases in response to the same comfort-driven things that it does in humans: food, familiar humans, and their human pet parent who had stepped out for a bit and then returned." (It's how you feel when your BFF goes away on vacation and then returns.) This may prove that dogs might experience positive emotions just like you do!. How did Burns accomplish this? He acclimated the dogs to MRI machines and then monitored caudate activity. Pretty cool, eh?
3. Scientific studies on dolphins. Through the years, many studies have been done on dolphin brains. A recent study shows that dolphins may come in second in their intellectual capacity to humans. They show a high level of self-awareness and the ability to suffer trauma and suffering. Just like with the dogs, this study was conducted using MRI scans. "Dolphins can also solve problems and associate parts of their anatomy with humans. They may even create individualized whistle noises for different members of their pod."
4. Studies of Great Ape empathy. Great apes are viewed as closely related to humans so many studies have been done on these animals. One study found that bonobos apes exhibit the same kind of contagious yawning that many humans do. This is an indicator of empathy. "Though not as scientific, there is also anecdotal evidence that apes feel emotions otherwise attributed to humans, such as the desire of Koko the gorilla to have a baby communicated through sign language and play."
5. Studies on elephants. Jeffrey Mason is the author of the book When Elephants Weep. a fascinating collection of essays about the emotional lives of elephants. For example, elephants have been known to stay with their sick or injured comrades, even when that elephant isn't a member of their family. They also appear to grieve the loss of their own.
Animal rights and welfare activists are constantly frustrated that there is even still a debate going on as to whether animals are sentient beings. Most of us here know, I'm willing to bet, that animals have a great capacity for love, understanding, and empathy. We also know that animals must be treated better...more humanely and with compassion. Studies on animal sentience will continue for years to come, thank goodness. And, hopefully, more and more humans will get it that we're not just "dumb animals that don't feel things."
I invite you back here tomorrow for my October calendar of special days. But until then, I wish you