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Dolphins and whales experience pleasure
Date:8/14/2014

udies in the 1950s when animals appeared to derive as much pleasure from electrical stimulation of a region of the brain that released dopamine a chemical that stimulates the sensation of pleasure as they did when receiving a food reward. Had the trained dolphins and beluga whales transferred the release of dopamine from the brain's pleasure centres from the food reward to the trainer's reward signal?

Delving back through decades of recordings of experiments designed to test the abilities of dolphins and beluga whales that he had conducted with Patrick Moore, Don Carder and Tracy Romano, Ridgway then measured the delay between the trainer's signal and the victory squeals. As dopamine release takes 100 ms, Ridgway realised that the animals could be expressing pleasure if the delay between the promise of a reward and the animals' squeals was longer then the dopamine release period.

'Normally we worked in open waters in the San Diego Bay or out in the ocean Our recordings sometimes have a lot of background noise, so most of the analysis has to be done by hand using the human ear', recalls Ridgway. However, after months of painstaking analysis, Ridgway was convinced that the beluga whales and dolphins were expressing pleasure through their squeals. 'The dolphins take an average of 151 ms extra time for this release, and with the belugasit's about 250 ms delay', says Ridgway. He concludes with a smile, 'We think we have demonstrated that it [the victory squeal] has emotional content', before adding that he is keen to find out more about the cognitive abilities of these expressive animals.


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Contact: Kathryn Knight
kathryn@biologists.com
44-012-234-25525
The Company of Biologists
Source:Eurekalert

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