[Purpose] Previous studies have indicated that animal-assisted therapy can promote recovery of psychological, social, and physiological function in mental disorders. This study was designed as a pilot evaluation of the use of near-infrared spectroscopy to objectively identify changes in brain activity that could mediate the effect of animal-assisted therapy. [Subjects and Methods] The participants were 20 healthy students (10 males and 10 females; age 19–21 years) of the Faculty of Agriculture, Saga University. Participants were shown a picture of a Tokara goat or shack (control) while prefrontal cortical oxygenated haemoglobin levels (representing neural activity) were measured by near-infrared spectroscopy. [Results] The prefrontal cortical near-infrared spectroscopy signal was significantly higher during viewing of the animal picture than during a rest condition or during viewing of the control picture. [Conclusion] Our results suggest that near-infrared spectroscopy can be used to objectively identify brain activity changes during human mentation regarding animals; furthermore, these preliminary results suggest the efficacy of animal-assisted therapy could be related to increased activation of the prefrontal cortex.
2017 by the Society of Physical Therapy Science. Published by IPEC Inc.