Motion illusions as environmental enrichment?

Motion illusions as environmental enrichment?

Topic: Motion illusions as environmental enrichment?

Awardee: Stefania Celozzi (PhD student at the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Bioenergy of the University of Milan, Italy)

Host: Dr Christian Nawroth (Research Institute for Farm Animal Biology, FBN)

When: 10/07/2023 to 11/08/2023
Where: Research Institute for Farm Animal Biology (FBN), Dummerstorf, Germany

Aim of this STSM was to deepen the knowledge on cognitive abilities of goats, and in particular on the capability of these animals to perceive motion and motion illusions in order to assess the suitability of motion illusions as potential environmental enrichments in husbandry systems. This is in line with the aims of COST Action LIFT CA21124 which wants to promote animal welfare also by investigating new possibilities for farm animals to experience positive affective states, through the exploration of their mental state and their cognitive abilities. In order to investigate goats’ attention to different visual stimuli, a looking time paradigm was applied to Nigerian dwarf goats. Looking time tests allow to evaluate the interest level of an individual toward a stimulus, which is directly proportional to the time spent by looking at it.   

The research questions and experiments of the STSM:

  1. Do goats pay more attention to a moving stimulus compared to a stationary stimulus? (Experiment 1)
  2.  Do goats pay more attention to a motion illusion stimulus compared to a control stimulus? (Experiment 2)

The grantee was involved in the behavioural data collection of the goats’ responses to the different visual stimuli. Moreover, since that the PhD of Stefania is focused on the analysis of goat vocalizations, she also collected spontaneous vocalizations of goats to have another parameter of goats’ behaviour toward the stimuli.

The STSM represented also an opportunity for Stefania to collaborate in the “Animal Welfare Standards Project” of the University of Queensland, in order to create a goat husbandry infographic for “The Animal Welfare Toolbox”, an open access online library to disseminate contents on animal welfare to the general public. Since that the tool will be open access and usable by anyone, this is in line with the “plan for dissemination and/or exploitation and dialogue with the general public or policy” as part of the measures to maximize the impact of the COST CA21124 LIFT Action.

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