Professor Michael Mendl
M.A., Ph.D.(Cantab.), BA (Hons)
Professor of Animal Behaviour and WelfareBristol Veterinary School
My research interests are in the area of animal behaviour and welfare.
I am interested in the links between affective and cognitive processes, in particular the ways in which attention, memory and decision-making both influence and are influenced by affective state. One aim of our current research, in collaboration with psychologist Dr Liz Paul, is to investigate whether affect-induced modulation of decision-making, which leads to so-called 'cognitive bias' in humans, is also observed in animals, and hence can be used as a novel indicator of animal affect (emotion) and welfare. In collaboration with Peter Dayan, Iain Gilchrist and Vikki Neville, we are using computational modelling methods in both animals and humans to understand the links between affective state and decision-making.
I am also interested in the evolution and function of affective states, developing new measures of animal emotion and welfare that can be used under field conditions (including automated / machine learning methods in collaboration with colleagues at Bristol Vet School), and understanding more about animal cognition, emotion, personality, and social behaviour with a view to identifying and minimising welfare problems for captive animals.
I also have interests in the influence of early experience and social behaviour (including mother-offspring relations, early husbandry procedures, and 'abnormal behaviours' such as tail-biting in pigs) on behavioural development, an individual's ability to cope with challenge, and animal welfare.
I lead the BBSRC-UFAW Animal Welfare Research Network which is ably managed by Poppy Statham. I am a member of the UKRI Future Leader Fellowships Panel College, and have been a core member of BBSRC grant committee A, and the NC3Rs research grant panel.
BBSRC: Animal affect, welfare and decision-making: a computational modelling approach. We (Mike Mendl (PI), Liz Paul, Vikki Neville and collaborator Peter Dayan (Max Planck Institute fir Biological Cybernetics)) are using computational modelling approaches to understand the links between affective state and decision-making in rodents.
NC3Rs: Do male mice prefer to live on their own? With Emma Robinson (PI) and Jennifer Davies (Physiology, Pharmacology & Neuroscience), we are investigating the effects of different social housing conditions on the behaviour and welfare of male mice.
UFAW: Is flight important to the welfare of captive birds? With Innes Cuthill (Biological Sciences), Emma Mellor, Georgia Mason (University of Guelph) and Yvonne van Zeeland (University of Utrecht), we are using phylogenetic comparative methods to investigate the links between species' flight dependency and measures of welfare problems in captivity, focusing on parrots as an exemplar clade.
BBSRC: Validating inactivity in the home-cage as a depression-like state indicator in mice. With Carole Fureix (Co-I Plymouth), we (Anna Davies, Liz Paul, Emily Finnegan, Mike Mendl (PI)) are investigating the use of waking inactivity as a spontaneous behaviour measure of depression like states in mice.
UFAW: Developing new thermographic methods to assess emotional valence by measuring thermal lateralization. We (Helena Telkanranta, Liz Paul, Becky, Whay, Mike Mendl (PI)) are investigating the use of thermal imaging as an indicator of affective valence, arousal and welfare in cattle and chickens.PhD students
- Emma Mellor (Supervisors: Mike Mendl, Innes Cuthill (Biological Sciences), Georgia Mason (University of Guelph)) - Using the comparative approach to identify species' risk factors for abnormal behaviour and poor welfare in captivity
- Rogelio Rodriguez (Supervisors: Mike Mendl, Suzanne Held, Sue Dow (Bristol Zoo)) – Clever keas: cognition and cognitive enrichment
- Melissa Smith (Supervisors: Jo Murrell, Mike Mendl) – Understanding pain perception in dogs with osteoarthritis
- Helena Tallack (Supervisors: Emily Blackwell, Mike Mendl) - Effects of nutraceuticals and behaviour therapy on dogs diagnosed with anxiety
- Marco Ramirez (Supervisors: Helena Telkanranta, Mike Mendl, Becky, Whay) - Developing measures of affective state and welfare in dairy cattle
- Sharyn Bestre (Supervisors: Nikki Rooney, Mike Mendl) - Indentifying predictors of good performance in medical detection dogs
- Guillermina Hernandez (Supervisors: Mike Mendl, Nikki Rooney, Renata Ferreira (Universidade Federal Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil)) - Factors influencing rehabilitation, reintroduction and trade of brown capuchin monkeys
- Molly Davidson (Supervisors: Mike Mendl, Liz Paul, Iain Gilchrist (Psychology), Vikki Neville, John Fennell) - Animal emotion and welfare: a decision making and computational approach
- Sarah Kappel (Supervisors: Carole Fureix (lead), Sarah Collins (University of Plymouth), Mike Mendl) - Attention bias as an indicator of animal affective states
- Lucy Marshall (Supervisors: Mike Mendl, Liz Paul, Daniel Robert (Biological Sciences)) - Affective processes and decision-making in bees
- PhD students: Hans Erhard (SAC), Kirsty Laughlin, Oliver Burman, Emma Harding, Morven McLeman (RVC), Adriana de Souza (Michigan State Univ, USA), Kerry Westwood, Usama AbouIsmail, Richard Parker, Poppy Statham, Philippa Lait, Luca Melotti, Sam Jones, Birgitte Seehuus (SLU, Sweden), Pernille Svendsen (Aarhus University, Denmark), Ralph Thompson, Roz Sandwell, Amanda Deakin, Timothy Tan (Melbourne University, Australia)
- MSc by research: Sheena Calvert (SAC), Alastair Cockburn, Joana Fernandes, Heather Neave (UBC, Canada), Aurelie Jolivald, Sarah Kappel, Anastasija Popova
- Postdocs and RAs: Hans Erhard (SAC), Suzanne Held, Christine Moinard, Kirsty Laughlin, Oliver Burman, Moira Harris, Mike Toscano, Corinna Clark, Nina Taylor, Eimear Murphy, Ljerka Ostojic (Cambridge), Sam Jones
- Development of a new technique for measuring biases in decision-making under ambiguity ('judgement biases') in non-human animals
- Affect-induced judgement biases appear to be reliable new indicators of animal emotion and welfare
- Affect-induced judgement biases have now been observed in rats, humans and dogs. Other labs have used our technique to demonstrate them in rodents, sheep, starlings, rhesus monkeys, pigs, and honeybees
- Sensitivity to reward loss may also be a useful new indicator of animal emotion and welfare
- 'Discrete' and 'dimensional' theories of emotion can be integrated to provide a functional view of animal emotion and the role of affect in altering decision-making
- The influence of threat (e.g. probability of predation) on optimal decision-making by combined fast/inaccurate and slow/accurate mechanisms can be modelled
- Early experience of stressful husbandry effects may have lifelong consequences in sheep
- Pigs can adjust their foraging behaviour to avoid their knowledge being exploited depending on whom they are foraging with
If you are interested in joining our research group, contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Further information about Professor Michael Mendl can be found here.
DescriptionFrustration of highly motivated behaviours causes welfare problems, with some evidence this may be true for flight, this being one of the most constrained natural behaviours in captive birds. Using…
Managing organisational unitSchool of Biological Sciences
01/12/2019 to 01/06/2022
8054 - BBSRC BB/T002654/1 Animal affect, welfare, and decision-making: a computational modelling approach
Managing organisational unit
01/11/2019 to 31/10/2022
8055 - BBSRC BB/T002654/1 Animal affect, welfare, and decision-making: a computational modelling approach
Managing organisational unitBristol Veterinary School
01/11/2019 to 31/10/2023
Managing organisational unit
01/11/2019 to 31/10/2023
Understanding the behaviour and improving the welfare of pigs
- Chapter in a book
Dissecting the links between reward and loss, decision-making, and self-reported affect using a computational approach
PLoS Computational Biology
Do greater levels of in-cage waking inactivity in laboratory mice reflect a spontaneous depression-like symptom? A pharmacological investigation.
Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior