Brain Dysfunction in Cribbing Horses Gives Researchers Something to Chew On

Here's hoping that this research will some day lead to a cure for this unfortunate condition.

clipped from www.thehorse.com

In the first study of its kind, researchers from the United Kingdom have discovered that cribbing horses learn differently than horses that don't crib.

Cribbing is a stereotypy in which a horse grasps an object between his incisor teeth and inhales air into the esophagus while emitting an audible grunting noise. It is the most common stereotypy among stabled horses.

Previous research has suggested that changes in the chemical pathways in specific regions of the brain appear to be important in environmentally-induced stereotypies such as cribbing. In particular, cribbers reportedly have fewer types of dopamine receptors in a specific region of the brain referred to as the dorsomedial striatum.

"Post-mortem studies have illustrated that crib-biting horses have differences in some brain areas," explained Matthew Parker, MSc, a doctoral candidate in the School of Psychology at the University of Southampton. "We wanted to see how this affected their learning."

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"From my earliest memories, I have loved horses with a longing beyond words." ~ Robert Vavra