Lecorps, B., Nogues, E., von Keyserlingk, M. A. G. et al. 2020. Pessimistic dairy calves are more vulnerable to pain-induced anhedonia. PLoS ONE 15(11), e0242100.
Pain induces deficits in appreciation of rewards (i.e. anhedonia) and variation in response to pain may be partly explained by individual differences in general expectations (i.e. optimism). Dairy calves are routinely subjected to painful procedures such as hot-iron disbudding. We tested if female Holstein calves (n = 17) display signs of anhedonia (as evidenced by reduced consumption of a sweet solution) after hot-iron disbudding (performed under general and local anesthesia), and whether individual differences in optimism explain the variation in this response. Individual variation in optimism was measured using responses to two judgment bias tests (performed when calves were 25 d old), and anhedonia was measured by comparing consumption of a sweet solution before and after hot-iron disbudding. We found that intake of the sweet solution declined (by mean ± SD: 48.4 ± 44.3%) on the day after disbudding, and that more pessimistic calves were more affected. Sweet solution consumption did not return to baseline for the duration of the study (i.e. 5 days). Calves reduced their intake of a sweet solution after hot-iron disbudding, consistent with pain-induced anhedonia, and more pessimistic calves showed stronger evidence of anhedonia, suggesting that they were more affected by the procedure. However, our results cannot rule out the possibility that calf responses were driven by anorexia.