Effects Of Vicarious Equine Interaction On Anxiety And Neuromodulators
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Human-animal interaction influences the release of neuromodulators, such as cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine (Beetz, Uvnäs-Moberg, Julius, & Kotrschal, 2012). No data could be located in the literature to establish a neuromodulating effect of Vicarious Equine Interaction (VEI) on anxiety and mood, measured by changes in oxytocin levels in saliva. A Pilot Study (n = 151) found the group who viewed a positive VEI also reported significant improvement in mood compared to the control video (trees blowing in the wind) (Gray, 2015; Gray, Ceballos, Graham, & Tooley, 2015). Study 1 followed the Pilot Study, with a larger sample size (n = 321). Another control group (a horse running) was added. Study 1 corroborated the findings in the Pilot Study—a positive VEI significantly improved mood and decreased anxiety compared to the two control videos. Study 2 was comprised of a small group of healthy university students (n=11) who viewed only the VEI video. Oxytocin saliva samples were collected before and after viewing the VEI. Oxytocin levels significantly correlated to decreased anxiety, and implicitly corresponded to improved mood. Investigating whether involving people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), would be helpful to establish whether VEI influences mood or changes in oxytocin among people with emotional dysregulation.