Travain, T., Valsecchi, P. 2021. Infrared thermography in the study of animals’ emotional responses: A critical review. Animals 11(9), 2510.
Whether animals have emotions was historically a long-lasting question but, today, nobody disputes that they do. However, how to assess them and how to guarantee animals their welfare have become important research topics in the last 20 years. Infrared thermography (IRT) is a method to record the electromagnetic radiation emitted by bodies. It can indirectly assess sympathetic and parasympathetic activity via the modification of temperature of different body areas, caused by different phenomena such as stress-induced hyperthermia or variation in blood flow. Compared to other emotional activation assessment methods, IRT has the advantage of being noninvasive, allowing use without the risk of influencing animals’ behavior or physiological responses. This review describes general principles of IRT functioning, as well as its applications in studies regarding emotional reactions of domestic animals, with a brief section dedicated to the experiments on wildlife; it analyzes potentialities and possible flaws, confronting the results obtained in different taxa, and discusses further opportunities for IRT in studies about animal emotions.