Narcoleptic Type Behaviours of the Horse: an exploratory study into temperament differences and neural function

Gleeson, Josephine (2023) Narcoleptic Type Behaviours of the Horse: an exploratory study into temperament differences and neural function. Masters thesis, University of Gloucestershire. doi:10.46289/7XU3P45U

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Narcoleptic Type Behaviours (NTB’s*) are characterised by intermittent periods of apparent somnolence followed by loss of muscle tone resulting in instability of the front limbs, creating potential risks for handlers and bystanders. This exploratory study examined the potential drivers of NTB’s in horses (Equus caballus) with a focus upon temperament variables, autonomic nervous system function and inferred measures of dopamine transmission. Thirteen horses of varying age (5 years old – 24 years old) and breed all exhibiting NTB’s, were recruited for the study along with thirteen control equivalents all confirmed as being free from the condition. A previously validated temperament questionnaire was initially applied to all animals by the horse owners, followed by recordings at rest of Heart Rate Variability (HRV) on 3 occasions for 30 minutes to assess the integrity of the autonomic nervous system. Finally, Spontaneous Blink Rate (SBR) and Behavioural Initiation Rate (BIR) were applied in triplicate (30 minutes) as inferred indicators of dopamine system tone in all animals. Curiosity scores were significantly lower (p<0.05) in NTB versus control horses, as were those for vigilance (p<0.05). Conversely, scores for Cooperation were higher in the NTB cohort (p<0.05). There were no differences between groups for any of the physiological variables, although there was a significant negative correlation between SBR and Low Frequency / High Frequency (LF / HF) ratio (rs= -0.56, p<0.01) for the control, but not the NTB equivalents. Similarly, a strong negative correlation between BIR and LF/HF ratio was uncovered in the control group (rs= -0.68, p<0.01) which was absent in NTB animals. The differences in temperament variables pave the way towards possible diagnostic / predictive indicators, whilst the lack of correlation between central and peripheral nervous system indicators in the NTB cohort tentatively implies a decoupling of these systems, although further research is required to ascertain the functional dimensions of these findings.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Thesis Advisors:
Thesis AdvisorEmailURL
Additional Information: Award conferred by the University of Gloucestershire in partnership with the Royal Agricultural University.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Narcolepsy; Type Behaviours; Dysregulation of Dopamine; Nervous system
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry > RC346 Neurology. Diseases of the nervous system
Depositing User: Kamila Niekoraniec
Date Deposited: 04 Jun 2024 13:55
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2024 11:42

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