Behavioural and EEG changes in sheep in response to painful acute electrical stimuli

R. M. Ong, J. P. Morris, J. K. O'Dwyer, J. L. Barnett, P. H. Hemsworth, I. J. Clarke

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Objective To measure acute pain in sheep, based on a human pain model, and examined changes in both electroencephalogram frequency spectrum and behavioural responses to increased electrical stimulation in sheep. Design Analysis of variance (treatment and animal effects) for stimulus intensity where each animal received each electric shock treatment given in the order 0, 5, 10 and 20 mA. Procedure Eight sheep with electrodes implanted over the surface of the brain were examined for escape-avoidance and electroencephalogram responses to four levels of electrical stimulation from 0-20 mA. Results With increasing stimulus intensity at the time of feeding, the sheep were more hesitant to return to the feeder or remain near the feeder following stimulation. There was little difference between the 0 and 5 mA stimuli for any of the behaviour variables (P > 0.05). However, there were marked increases in the time taken to re-approach the feeder after receiving an electric shock of 5 mA and of 20 mA (P < 0.05; mean values 3 and 119 s, respectively) and remaining near the feeder for 5 s (P < 0.001; mean values 10 and 167 s, respectively). Following the stimulus, there was an overall increase in the electroencephalogram power spectrum in the first four seconds, which then rapidly returned to normal. In particular, the 20 mA stimulus resulted in higher absolute power values than in the control (0 mA) treatment for delta 2 (P < 0.001), theta 1 (P < 0.05), theta 2 (P < 0.05), alpha 1 (P < 0.001), alpha 2 (P < 0.001) and beta 1 (P < 0.01) band-widths. Similarly, for the 10 mA stimulus, the absolute power values were greater than the control treatment for delta 2 (P < 0.05), alpha 1 (P < 0.01), alpha 2 (P < 0.001) and beta 1 (P < 0.01) bandwidths. Conclusion The experiment suggests that a human acute pain model is applicable to sheep and that these electroencephalogram changes may provide a good measure of acute pain in sheep.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-193
Number of pages5
JournalAustralian Veterinary Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Acute pain
  • Behaviour
  • EEG
  • Electric shock
  • Electrooculogram
  • Pain
  • Sheep

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