Playing With Dogs Boosts Relaxation And Concentration, Brain Waves Reveal

By Study Finds

SEOUL, South Korea — Could doctors start handing out prescriptions for new pets? According to a new study, pet therapy could serve as a great way to improve mental health. A team in South Korea found that playing with a dog alters our brain waves, enhancing relaxation and concentration while reducing stress and depression.

In the study, researchers measured the impact on participants’ brain waves during interactions with dogs and identified numerous benefits from these activities. They concluded that there’s compelling evidence of the potential advantages of “animal-assisted interventions” (AAI) for humans.

Conducted by a team from Konkuk University in Seoul, this research is among the first to quantify the specific brainwave patterns associated with different types of human-dog interactions, offering a scientific foundation to the long-suspected therapeutic benefits of our canine companions.

For centuries, dogs have been more than just pets; they’ve been faithful friends, workers, and protectors, evolving alongside humans and playing a critical role in our lives. Previous studies have touched upon the physical and emotional benefits of interacting with dogs, such as increased oxytocin levels, decreased cortisol levels, and a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases. This study, however, takes a unique approach by examining how different activities with dogs — ranging from playing and walking to feeding and massaging — affect our brain’s electrical activity, as measured by electroencephalograms (EEGs).

The study involved 30 healthy adults who engaged in eight distinct activities with a dog, including playing, walking, feeding, massaging, grooming, photographing, hugging, and simply meeting the dog. EEGs captured the participants’ brainwave patterns during these interactions, focusing on alpha and beta power spectra — indicators of the brain’s relaxation and concentration levels, respectively.

The results revealed that activities such as playing and walking with the dog significantly increased relaxation, as evidenced by increased alpha wave activity in the brain. In contrast, activities that required more focused interaction, like massaging and grooming the dog, led to heightened concentration without stress, indicated by increased beta wave activity.

Moreover, the study explored participants’ emotional responses through questionnaires assessing their mood states before and after each activity. Consistently, interactions with the dog were associated with lower stress levels and improved mood, highlighting the emotional benefits of spending time with a furry friend.

This research shines a light on the intricate ways in which our interactions with dogs can influence our mental state and well-being. Playing with a dog, for instance, not only relaxes the mind but also sharpens it, enhancing both relaxation and concentration. This dual effect suggests that dogs could play a vital role in therapies designed to relieve stress and improve mental focus.

Walking with a dog, often seen as a mere physical activity, was found to make participants feel more comfortable and natural, reinforcing the idea that these interactions can ground us and reconnect us with the simpler, essential aspects of life. The act of massaging a dog, which requires focused attention to the animal’s body, not only increased the participants’ concentration levels but also made them feel more relaxed, pointing to the potential use of such activities in therapeutic settings to boost attention and reduce anxiety.

“Dogs were domesticated more than 30,000 years ago, and have assisted humans in numerous tasks, including hunting, working, herding, and guarding throughout history. Dogs can communicate with people. They have been faithful friends to humans and share emotions beyond that of an efficient assistant,” researchers write in the journal PLoS ONE.

“Our study demonstrates that animal interaction activities, such as playing, walking, massaging, and grooming dogs, have a positive effect by facilitating increased brain activity in healthy participants.”

Source: Study Finds

Image: Unsplash

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