View Full Version : "Pigs in Disneyland"

04-01-14, 09:41 PM

Pigs in Disneyland

The Brambell Report said animals should be free to express normal behaviors, but it didn't say animals have to have natural environments.

For as long as I've been working in the field of animal behavior and welfare,

"enriched environments" have been the main approach to giving animals a good emotional life.

The idea that animals are happier in enriched environments first came from research psychologists working with lab rats.

In the 1940, Donald Hebb, a Canadian psychologist , raised some young rats in his house instead of in a laboratory cage.

Later on, when he tested them, they had higher intelligence and better problem-solving abilities than the rats that grew up in cages.

Twenty years later, in the 1960's,

a research psychologist named Mark Rosenzweig was the second major researcher to study lab rats in enriched environments. (*16)

No one in the general public has ever heard of him even though he showed that an adult brain grew new cells,

a finding that went totally against everything neuroscientists believed.

Dr. Rosenzweig's enriched adult rats had an 8 percent increase in thickness of the cerebral cortex.(*17)

That was an amazing finding, but nobody picked up on the idea that the brain could be plastic (could grow and change) in adult rats as well as juveniles.

Bill Greenough's experiments in the late 1960s and 1970s raising baby rats in stimulating environments were the studies that became famous.

Bill raised one group of rats in a standard plastic laboratory cage with shavings on the floor.

The other group lived in an enriched environment filled with lots of toys and old wood boards.

He brought in new toys every day and changed the position of the boards, so the enriched environment also included a lot of novelty and change.

When he looked at the brains, he found that the rats in the enriched environment had greater dendritic growth in their visual cortex. (*18)

Dendrites are tiny little threads that branch out from brain cells and conduct electrical impulses into the cell body.

Rats living in stimulating environments had more brain growth.

Bill's work had a huge effect on me, and I think he influenced the whole field of animal welfare,

because researchers have been studying barren and enriched environments for thirty years now.

I went to the University of Illinois in 1981 to work with Bill because of that study.

When I sent in my application, I was especially concerned about the way farms were treating pigs.

There was a lot of controversy, which is still going on today, about the sow stalls where mama pigs were kept locked up for their whole pregnancy.

The sow stalls were so narrow the pigs didn't even have enough room to turn around.

I thought that maybe if I duplicate Bill's rat research in pigs I would have a biological test researchers could use to prove that barren environments are bad for pigs.

I would be able to show that pigs raised on hard plastic floors they couldn't root in had fewer dendrites than pigs raised in nice straw-bedded pens.

So, for my dissertation research, I copied Bill's enriched rats experiment using young pigs.

Twelve of my piglets lived in six baby pens with perforated plastic floors and nothing much to do.

The other twelve lived in a Disneyland for pigs with lots of straw to root in and toys to play: plastic balls, old telephone books they could rip up, boards,

and a metal pipe they could roll around on the floor.

Every day I was putting new things in and taking old things out.

New things were the key.

The pigs loved fresh, new straw, which they found very interesting.

The old straw was boring.

You would think straw is straw, but it isn't.

New straw was exciting; old straw wasn't.

My hypothesis was that the brains of the Disneyland pigs would show more dendritic growth than the brains of the barren-environment pigs.

Back then the only way to compare neurons from one brain to another was to spend hours and hours staring into a microscope and drawing the cells by hand,

which I did.

I looked at two parts of the pigs' cortex: the visual cortex, which was where Bill's enriched rats had extra dendritic growth,

and the somatosensory cortex, which receives information from the pig's snout.

When I finally got done, I realized the Disneyland pigs didn't have any greater dendritic growth at all.

I was even more surprised to find out that my barren-environment pigs did have greater growth.

Also my barren-environment pigs had their extra growth in the somatosensory cortex, not the visual cortex where Bill's rats had shown extra growth.(*19)

My experiment totally contradicted Bill's.

My enriched pigs didn't have greater brain growth,

and the part of the brain where my understimulated pigs did have greater growth was different from the part where Bill's enriched rats had theirs.

When I told Bill about my results he said. "Oh, s***."

He thought I must have made a mistake, so I had to do the whole experiment over again.

This time I installed a battery of security cameras trained on the pigs so I could see what they were doing when I wasn't around.

I already knew my barren-environment pigs had to be different form my Disneyland pigs, because they were so hyper.

I'd go to clean the pens and they'd bite the hose over and over again and get in the way; they wouldn't stay away from me.

That was from the environment deprivation, which makes animals hyperactive.

When the pigs saw the water hose, their SEEKING system went into overdrive.

I found out from watching the videotapes that they were hyper at night, too.

All night long they were rubbing their noses into each other and into the floor, and they were going crazy manipulating the nipple waterer,

which is a water pipe with a nipple on the end.

All this activity was going on while the Disneyland pigs were sleeping.

When I looked at the brains under the microscope, I found the same thing I found the first time.

The barren-environment pigs had greater dendritic growth than the Disneyland pigs, and the greater dendritic growth was in the somatosensory cortex,

not the visual cortex.

Bill wasn't happy about my second experiment, either.

Trying to figure it out, I got to thinking that maybe what makes dendrites grow isn't the environment,

What makes dendrites grow are the animal's behaviors and actions in its environment.

Bill Greenough created a visually complex environment for his rats.

There was a lot to look at.

But my barren-environment piglets had been doing a lot, not seeing a lot.

They'd been constantly using their noses to prod and poke each other and the waterer.

Greater use of a body part led to greater dendritic growth in the part of the brain that received input from that body part.

I think the lack of stimulation revved up their SEEKING system,

because when I cleaned their feeders the pigs were so starved for stimulation that they intensely rooted and chewed at my hands.

My Disneyland pigs were much less interested in feeder cleaning because they had plenty of fresh straw and toys to occupy their SEEKING system.

Everyone who read Bill Greenough's studies, including me, automatically assumed that increased dentritic growth was a good thing.

But after I saw how my pigs were acting at night when they should have been sleeping,

I started to think there can be increased dendritic growth that was abnormal and bad.

Bill didn't agree, but that's what neuroscientists believe today.

You can have to little brain growth and you can have to much brain growth.

Both things can be pathological.

My barren-environment pigs probably had abnormal overgrowth of the dendrites in the somatosensory cortex.

This is where my belief came that it is so important to satisfy the SEEKING system to prevent abnormal development.

Grandin/Johnson, "Animals Make Us Human", (What Do Animals Need?), P 9-13.


04-01-14, 09:59 PM

04-02-14, 01:15 AM
Play: Free play, in which children develop their own activities, including rough-and-tumble activities that, as the term play implies,

involves physical activity such as running, jumping, play fighting, and wrestling, are increasingly recognized as essential components of a child’s development.

Both human and animal studies have provided evidence that periods of play improve social skills, impulse inhibition and attention (Panksepp, 2007; Pellis et al., 2010)

and result in specific neurochemical and dendritic changes in many neurons (Bell et al., 2010; Panksepp, 2008),

especially in those brain areas in which ADHD children are deficient.

Therefore, long-term provision of more opportunities for physical play may be an effective, non-medicinal therapy for reducing some of the disruptive behaviors of

ADHD and facilitating brain development in children diagnosed with ADHD.


04-02-14, 12:23 PM
*Note underline by Peripheral


THE EIGHT-year-old daughter is taking her time leaving her toy or book or reveries.

"Hurry up. We want to eat," the father says, tense with hunger and work overload.

The daughter covers her ears.

"Don't yell at me," she complains.

"I am not yelling," the man answers, this time hearing himself raise his voice.

The child's face turns into a picture of pain and despair.

"Mommy, Daddy's being mean to me," she cries.

If the decibel count in that kitchen had been measured when the father first instructed his daughter to hurry,

it would not have registered at levels most people would define as yelling.

The daughter's reaction, however, is genuine.

She picks up, senses, experiences the tension in the father's voice, the edge of controlled impatience and frustration.

That is what is translated in her brain as "yelling."

She is feeling exactly the same fear and outrage as another child would if shouted at in an angry manner.

It is a matter of sensitivity, of the degree of reactivity to the environment.

This child is emotionally hypersensitive..

..People with ADD are hypersensitive.

That is not a fault or a weakness of theirs, it is how they were born.

It is their inborn temperament.

That, primarily, is what is hereditary about ADD.

Genetic inheritance by itself cannot account for the presence of ADD features in people,

but heredity can make it far more likely that these features will emerge in a given individual, depending on circumstances.

It is sensitivity, not a disorder, that is transmitted through heredity.

In most cases, ADD is caused by the impact of the environment on particularly sensitive infants.

Gabor Mate M.D., "Scattered", P 57-59.


04-02-14, 12:35 PM
Research into the benefits of play is only just beginning but results suggest that adding ample play opportunities may help improve the success of ADHD treatment,

especially in regards to social success, which thus far has been little improved by stimulant or behavioral treatments (King et al., 2009; Mrug et al., 2012).

We must keep in mind, though, that children with ADHD often have difficulties making and keeping friends (Hoza, 2007; Hoza et al., 2005; Andrade et al., 2012),

probably due to poor social skills, and their play can often end in aggression and rejection (Panksepp & Scott, 2012) so many play interactions may result in

negative rather than positive experiences.

One way to minimize the number of negative play outcomes may be to provide children with abundant rough and tumble

play experiences that build and refine the social brain during the first few years of children’s lives before any ADHD diagnosis is appropriate.

Play, after all, is beneficial for all children, not just children with ADHD.

Since play also improves self-control, attention and hyperactivity, it may be that early play could prevent at least some diagnoses of ADHD as children age.


04-02-14, 12:52 PM

Because of the role of play in the epigenetic construction of social brain functions, the young of all mammalian species need sufficient play.

Play, ADHD, and the construct of the Social Brain

Should the First Class Each Day Be Recess? (

Jaak Panksepp


04-02-14, 01:01 PM
Note: underline by Peripheral

BrainWorld: Did you do any play research with humans?

Jaak Panksepp: We did perhaps the first systematic experimental research on human children.

But human physical play still has not been extensively studied.

Developmental psychologists usually only study play with toys and games.

We studied the play of two friends—pairs of boys and girls at 4-7 years of age—in an empty room with mats on the floor but no toys.

“Play and enjoy,” we told them, and videotaped their interactions for about half an hour.

We scored about 20 behaviors such as running after each other, wrestling, pushing from the front, pushing from the back, laughing, and so forth.

Surprisingly, there was hardly any difference between the play of young girls and boys, as the human play literature led us to believe.

A lot of people have claimed that boys play more, but we don’t see that in our rats or our human studies.

We think many of the reported gender differences in play are a result of learning rather than any intrinsic differences.

- See more at:


04-02-14, 01:25 PM
BrainWorld: Are there negative aspects to play?

Jaak Panksepp: Play does have a dark side.

When you just allow your children to do as they please, then play often leads to disagreements, and perhaps even bullying.

One function of play is to take you to the edge of your emotional knowledge, so you can learn what you can and cannot do to others.

Thus in our studies of play in “play sanctuaries,” we always had young supervisors who would help young people get over such problems.

Whenever something bad happened, then we quickly explained to the naughty child that they should be nice if they wanted to continue playing.

They usually agreed, and readily learned to be good in order to have fun. We think children can learn many good social skills in this way.

Thus play sanctuaries can be used to promote good behaviors.

- See more at: