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Dolphin Assisted Therapy as a part of Animal Therapy

  Dolphin therapy as a special kind of animal therapy
     Mr.A.P. Chuprikov, Mrs. N.J. Wasilewska, Mr. S.V. Kelyushok, Mrs. M.A. Chuprikova, Mr. N.M. Markanov, Mr.A.J. Stolyarov
     National Medical Academy of Postgraduate Education named after Mr. P.L.Shupyk, Odessa Dolphinarium «Nemo»
     Currently, the rehabilitation of patients with a palette of different ages, suffering psychological and neurological diseases is becoming a promising trend that emerged more than a thousand years ago, but the scientific and medical awareness of the importance of which has come only now. We are talking about animal therapy, the therapy where animals and their images to provide psychological and medical care are used (4, 11). The most common example of animal therapy is horse therapy — using horses for correction of behavior and attitudes of children from the effects of cerebral palsy and children with mental disorders and behavior.
     However, the founder of modern animal therapy is a Canadian children psychiatrist-Bolies Levinson (18). In his therapeutic work he used the dog, which helped him to establish contact with patients, thereby expediting the therapeutic process. Levinson found out that the use of animal therapy is justified in dealing with unsociable, chained, closed children, children with autism, schizophrenia. A. Kutcher, and F. Wilkins (31) found that hyperactive children and children with behavioral disorders become calmer, less agitated and aggressive thanks to the animal therapy. They start to cooperate with the therapist better, begin to learn better and have gained the ability to control their behavior (4). In general, therapy involving animals contributes to the development of communicative spheres of the child (10)
     People is interaction with dolphins goes back in time. Legends and written evidence of dolphin friendliness toward humans, as well as cases with dolphins which helped people who have got into trouble at sea, have come to us from long time ago. The fact that the interaction with dolphins may have a therapeutic effect was first reported by Lilly.
     That's when it was suggested that the communication link the dolphin — a person can help people build better communication between each other, including therapeutic purposes. These ideas were developed and the scientific rationale in the 1970's in the works of D. Nathanson and coworkers (22, 23, 24, 25, 26).
     In our country the priority in the usage of therapeutic possibilities of dolphins belongs to Lyudmila Lukina, who has been researching for decades at the State Oceanarium of Sevastopol. She has recently compiled the previously published articles in a monograph (2), which is unfortunately not known very well by psychiatrists and psychologists. Today, the method of the dolphin therapy is recognized worldwide by enhancing nonspecific host defenses in individuals of all ages suffering from various disabilities, as well as by people in a state of preexisting diseases, who are almost healthy.
The aim of this review is to fill in the gap of information about the dolphin therapy


Ability and Brains of Dolphins.
The effectiveness of the dolphin therapy is largely due to unique characteristics of dolphins. They rank third in the ranking of the most intelligent animals of the planet. Dolphins have well developed, cognitive abilities and intellectual curiosity, which allows to train them easily. These animals have a high degree of socializing, as manifested in their sociability and friendliness within their own flock, as well as with representatives of other species, in particular, to the man. In their communication Dolphins use different types of vocalizations, producing numerous sounds that are descriptive terms and can be described as a roar, howl, moan, bellow, scream, shake, warble, heard, blow, thunder, cotton, etc. Sounds made by dolphins cover an unusually wide range of frequency response — from a few hertz to nearly three hundred kilohertz. It means there are infrasonic, sonic and ultrasonic components. These signals can be divided into pulsed and continuous (3). Pulse signals (clicks) consist of separate parcels of broadband (with a maximum intensity of 20 to 50 kHz) with a very steep leading edge, which lasts for about 0.1ms. Repetition frequency of these pulses can vary from several to hundreds per second, and on hearing they merge into twitter, squeak, bark. The duration of each signal may vary from clicking to clicking and therefore decreases with increasing number of pulses issued in a second, it also decreases in the pool over the sea. Signal type like click on its spectral characteristics can be equated to white noise, because it contains a broad frequency spectral range. Frequency band at the click of the animal varies depending on the circumstances. For recognizing dolphins usually use higher frequencies, and for the orientation - the lower and longer ones (in milliseconds). These signals can cause strong echoes. Bottlenose dolphins use double clicks, each lasting 3.4 — 0.7 ms with intervals of about 1ms between them. The pulse signals are usually accompanied by echolocation. Another large class of sounds made by dolphins is a class of so-called continuous signals. A part of them can be perceived by the ear as whistles, almost monotone, amplitude and frequently modulated with duration of about 0.1 - 3.6 sec, at 4 — 30 kHz. Other sounds in this class have a more complicated spectral composition and are perceived as a roar, howl, trumpet sounds, etc. They are characterized by the complexity of whistles and pulses. Whistles are commonly referred to as communicative signals, although they can be used for echolocation.
     The fact that a dolphin which echolocate approaching its prey shakes its head as if aiming its sound beam at the fish, indicates that the dolphin sends directed sound waves (16). The skull and soft tissues of the dolphin head concentrate the sound vibrations and act as an acoustic searchlight, and the sound lens. With increasing of frequency from 10 to 180 kHz the direction of sounds, is due to the concave front surface of the cerebral part of the skull and soft tissues of the head, clearly increase, and the sound field is narrowed. The skull and soft tissue of the head carry out the main role of a sound concentrator. The ability of dolphins to emit ultrasonic waves is directed into the dolphins being used for therapeutic effects on humans.
     Behavior and psychology of the dolphins have been at the focus of attention of psychologists and physiologists for a long time. The data which has been received so far characterize the cognitive abilities of these animals as one of the highest degree of development. Studies have shown that the cognitive abilities of dolphins are approaching the level of development to the abilities of primates, including humans (20). Partly, this similarity could be explained by a similar structure of the brain of dolphins and primates. Dolphins, like primates, have the most differentiated and the largest brains among mammals, as well as an impressive area of the associative areas of the cerebral cortex, particularly the prefrontal region. Most of the anatomical indicators that have evaluated now both are associated with cognitive abilities. Brain of dolphins is more similar to the human brain. However, there are important differences. Dolphin brain has a kind of a zone, which the human brain doesn it have and the limbic or emotional information may play a more important role in the brain of a dolphin than in a human is brain that can be connected, apparently, with their different specializations. The human brain specializes in detailed information processing, while the dolphin brain specializes at the speed of processing.
     Experimental studies of cognitive abilities have shown that the Dolphin has an exceptional memory, both short and long term, for processing visual, auditory and multimodal information (15, 17). Investigation of the behavior of these animals in learning intermediary languages has shown that dolphins can learn them, basing on higher cognitive processes — a generalization, abstraction, and the formation of preverbal concepts, high capacity for which were found in traditional laboratory experiments. A.Hermann and his colleagues have shown that dolphins are capable of semantics and syntax, as well as are able, without special training to react to new, logically ordered sequence of «words» of intermediary language (16;17). Dolphins can also understand the symbolic image of an object which is absent. The presence of the rudiments of the second signal system in dolphins organism is being investigated. However, no evidence that dolphins can make up at least the simplest phrases have been found so far. The ability of dolphins to operate with the empirical dimensions of figures, based on an understanding of the geometric properties of objects which is so rare in animal world, has been proved to exist. Finally, one of the most intriguing abilities of dolphins is their self-awareness or the ability to think of themselves primarily in the physical parameters (29). This means that dolphins are able to mentally imagine and create an analogy between their own body and the body of another individual - even when it does not look like a dolphin. There is evidence that bottlenose dolphins are able to recognize their reflection in the mirror. These animals show a high level of behavioral flexibility and imitative ability, which is rare if not unique among animals.
     It is obvious that the basis for such behavior is the ability to use «social» information in a very high level of cognitive activity. To implement these actions animals must be able to constantly compare the new and old information, collate it, and even stored in some abstract form.
     The presence of dolphins as complex intellectual and cognitive abilities can be explained by the high degree of development of the cerebral cortex, a prolonged period of maturation of young dolphins, a high level of parental care, but in the first place — by a complex social life. According to Hermann (16), the need to integrate into the social structure requires a high socialization and trainability. It is not difficult to imagine that the high development of the brain of dolphins and their possessing of high cognitive skills have come from the demands of their social life, including interaction and competition between individuals. These cognitive skills ensure their behavioral flexibility, which features a family of dolphins and allows them to be effective therapists for children with a wide range of developmental disorders, as well as for adults.