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Animal personality and health

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image of Behaviour

Animal models are used to study the physiological mechanisms underlying disease progression. In this paper, I examine the benefits of using animal models to study how personality or stable individual differences (in behavior and physiology) influence disease susceptibility and resilience. Such an expansion of animal model use, to study the relationships among personality, physiology, and health, provides a unique complement to human studies. Human studies are necessarily correlational and involve minimally-invasive physiological measures, whereas animal studies can involve experimental manipulations of potentially causal variables. For example, with animal models, genetic and environmental precursors of personality can be manipulated to test how behavioral response biases affect health, and physiological parameters can be manipulated to observe resulting changes in behavioral traits and health. In addition to these experimental benefits, lifespan longitudinal studies can be conducted with short-lived animal models to address cumulative, potentially subtle effects of personality on health. In general, animal models allow for greater in-depth analyses of physiological processes underlying relationships between personality and health, and a means for determining causal mechanisms.


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