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Int J Psychiatry Clin Pract. 2012 Sep;16(3):205-13. doi: 10.3109/13651501.2011.644565. Epub 2012 Apr 10.

Evaluation of cerebral activity in the prefrontal cortex in mood [affective] disorders during animal-assisted therapy (AAT) by near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS): a pilot study.

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Laboratory of Neurophysiology, The Graduate School of Environmental Health Sciences, Azabu University, Kanagawa, Japan.



Previous studies have shown the possibility that animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is useful for promoting the recovery of a patient's psychological, social, and physiological aspect. As a pilot study, we measured the effect that AAT had on cerebral activity using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), and examined whether or not NIRS be used to evaluate the effect of AAT biologically and objectively.


Two patients with mood [affective] disorders and a healthy subject participated in this study. We performed two AAT and the verbal fluency task (VFT).


The NIRS signal during AAT showed great [oxy-Hb] increases in most of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) in the two patients. When the NIRS pattern during AAT was compared with that during VFT, greater or lesser differences were observed between them in all subjects.


The present study suggested that AAT possibly causes biological and physiological changes in the PFC, and that AAT is useful for inducing the activity of the PFC in patients with depression who have generally been said to exhibit low cerebral activity in the PFC. In addition, the possibility was also suggested that the effect of AAT can be evaluated using NIRS physiologically and objectively.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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