Behind those funny animal videos, sometimes, are oddly human-like problems. Laurel Braitman studies non-human animals who exhibit signs of mental health issues — from compulsive bears to self-destructive rats to monkeys with unlikely friends. Braitman asks what we as humans can learn from watching animals cope with depression, sadness and other all-too-human problems.
From 12:20 she says “One in five Americans is currently taking a psychopharmaceutical drug, from the antidepressants and antianxiety medications to the antipsychotics. It turns out that we owe this entire psychopharmaceutical arsenal to other animals. These drugs were tested in non-human animals first, and not just for toxicity but for behavioral effects.”
From 16:00 she says “Some interesting studies have pointed to oxytocin levels, which are a kind of bonding hormone that we release when we’re having sex or nursing or around someone that we care for extremely, oxytocin levels raising in both humans and dogs who care about each other or who enjoy each other’s company, and beyond that, other studies show that oxytocin raised even in other pairs of animals, so, say, in goats and dogs who were friends and played with each other, their levels spiked afterwards.”
From 18:00 she says “I literally spent years doing this research, and it’s changed me. I no longer look at animals at the species level. I look at them as individuals, and I think about them as creatures with their own individual weather systems guiding their behavior and informing how they respond to the world. And I really believe that this has made me a more curious and a more empathetic person, both to the animals that share my bed and occasionally wind up on my plate.”
See the 19 minute clip here: