Date Thesis Awarded
Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only
Bachelors of Science (BS)
Stress throughout college is associated with negative outcomes, including poor health, poor academic performance, and depression (Brougham et al., 2009; Hudd et al., 2000). For decades, animal therapy has been used as a treatment option for stress (Johnson, 2008). Although studies have shown that animal therapy can reduce psychological and physical indicators of stress in college students, no study has focused on the benefits of animal therapy on the brain. The current study used electroencephalogram (EEG) to analyze the neurological impacts of animal therapy on college student stress, specifically by measuring theta/alpha frequency ratios which are stress resilience indicators. Participants included 18 first-year college students participating in orientation activities before the start of their freshman year of college (39% Male, 39% Female, 78% White, 11% Hispanic or Latino, 5.5% Multiracial or Biracial, and 5.5% Asian/Pacific Islander). Participants were first asked to answer questions regarding their current mood and stress. An EEG was then used to measure the neurological stress of each participant before, during, and after interacting with a certified animal therapy dog. It was predicted that lower perceived stress and lower theta/alpha ratios, indicating lower stress levels, would be found after participants interacted with the animal therapy dog. Results revealed that there was a significant decrease in perceived stress after animal interaction and that neurological stress was significantly lower after animal therapy than during interaction. While not all hypotheses were supported by the results of this study, it is important to note that EEG technology could have been impacted by mobile, animal interaction. Future research using animal interaction with restricted movement may be important to confirm these results.
Phillips, Grace, "Stress and Animal Therapy Rewards: The Impacts of Animal Interaction on Neurological Markers of Stress in College Students" (2023). Undergraduate Honors Theses. William & Mary. Paper 1905.
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