Progetti di ricerca

A new non-invasive approach to the investigation of cerebral activity in domestic animals using functional nearinfrared spectroscopy: Implications on animal welfare and on comparative system and cognitive neuroscience

SSD Responsabile del Progetto VET/01 - Anatomia degli animali domestici

Rilevanza Nazionale

Tipologia finanziamento PRIN

Data avvio: 5 February 2017

Data termine: 5 February 2020

Importo: 65.918 €



1) Set-up of a near-infrared spectroscope adapted to record from the sheep
2) Behavioral assessment of brain functions in the sheep through a series of basic and advanced tasks
3) Analysis of the neuroanatomical correlates of the brain activities recorded
Here follows a detailed description of each goal, subdivided into separate WKPs
4) Data analysis and dissemination
Milestones and deliverables are reported as M and D respectively

Descrizione del progetto

The lack of data concerning the organization of the central nervous system of the animal raised for milk and meat production is a potential handicap for the study of cognition processes important for the assessment of farm animals welfare, and a gap in comparative neuroscience. The main aim of this project is to study the functional organization of the central nervous system (CNS) of freely-moving sheep by the non-invasive application of functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). Specifically, we intend to record the oxygen consumption of selected areas of the brain involved in the performance of various tasks by applying especially adapted fNIRS instruments to the head of the sheep. The technical characteristics of the existing instruments will be studied to produce an instrument adapted to the head of the sheep. A series of behavioral motor and associative tasks will be planned to analyze basic executive functions and potential brain capacities. The data will allow to identify the cerebral areas involved in the physiological regulation of the complex and integrated behaviors. The parts of the brain active during the solution of behavioral tasks will be studied in detail to analyze the organization of the cortical columns, the neurochemical characteristics, the potential circuitry and the eventual existence of phenomena of neural plasticity. The overall results of this project will include the acquisition of experimental data and the development of innovative technologies applicable to animals of veterinary interest, using cutting-edge protocols. Combining the exploration of the neural substrates underlying cognitive functions with existing behavioural and physiological measures will strenghten knowledge of how animals perceive different environmental situations. This grant proposal follows the general objectives of Horizon 2020 guidelines and the outcomes may fill, at least in part, the gaps on the organization of the ovine brain. Validation of the data will also promote the use of the brains of the large herbivores, available at the slaughterhouse. The brains of the sheep and other large domestic mammals can be a suitable scientific model in neuroscience and thus contribute to reduce the number of rodents used in biomedical research.