Animal-assisted therapy for patients in a minimally conscious state: A randomized two treatment multi-period crossover trial

Autoři: Karin Hediger aff001;  Milena Petignat aff001;  Rahel Marti aff001;  Margret Hund-Georgiadis aff002
Působiště autorů: Department of Psychology, Division of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland aff001;  REHAB Basel, Clinic for neurorehabilitation and paraplegiology, Basel, Switzerland aff002;  Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Human and Animal Health Unit, Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Basel, Switzerland aff003;  Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on the Human-Animal Relationship Switzerland, Basel, Switzerland aff004
Vyšlo v časopise: PLoS ONE 14(10)
Kategorie: Research Article



To investigate if animal-assisted therapy (AAT) leads to higher consciousness in patients in a minimally conscious state during a therapy session, measured via behavioral reactions, heart rate and heart rate variability.


In a randomized two treatment multi-period crossover trial, 10 patients in a minimally conscious state participated in eight AAT sessions and eight paralleled conventional therapy sessions, leading to 78 AAT and 73 analyzed control sessions. Patients’ responses during sessions were assessed via behavioral video coding and the Basler Vegetative State Assessment (BAVESTA), heart rate and heart rate variability (SDNN, RMSSD, HF and LF). Data were analyzed with generalized linear mixed models.


Patients showed more eye movements (IRR = 1.31, 95% CI: 1.23 to 1.40, p < 0.001) and active movements per tactile input during AAT compared to control sessions (IRR = 1.13, 95% CI: 1.02 to 1.25, p = 0.018). No difference was found for positive emotions. With BAVESTA, patients’ overall behavioral reactions were rated higher during AAT (b = 0.11, 95% CI: 0.01 to 0.22, p = 0.038). AAT led to significantly higher LF (b = 5.82, 95% CI: 0.55 to 11.08, p = 0.031) and lower HF (b = -5.80, 95% CI: -11.06 to -0.57, p = 0.030), while heart rate, SDNN, RMSSD did not differ.


Patients in a minimally conscious state showed more behavioral reactions and increased physiological arousal during AAT compared to control sessions. This might indicate increased consciousness during therapeutic sessions in the presence of an animal.

Trial registration NCT02629302.

Klíčová slova:

Animal behavior – Behavior – Consciousness – Dogs – Emotions – Eye movements – Heart rate – Traumatic brain injury


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2019 Číslo 10
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