Influences of Animal-Assisted Therapy on Episodic Memory in Patients with Acquired Brain Injuries

Felicitas Theis, Frank Luck, Margret Hund-Georgiadis, Karin Hediger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Web of Science)


Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is shown to be an effective method to foster neurorehabilitation. However, no studies investigate long-term effects of AAT in patients with acquired brain injuries. Therefore, the aim of this pilot study was to investigate if and how AAT affects long-term episodic memory using a mixed-method approach. Eight patients rated pictures of therapy sessions with and without animals that they attended two years ago. Wilcoxon tests calculated differences in patients’ memory and experienced emotions between therapy sessions with or without animals. We also analyzed interviews of six of these patients with qualitative content analysis according to Mayring. Patients remembered therapy sessions in the presence of an animal significantly better and rated them as more positive compared to standard therapy sessions without animals (Z = −3.21, p = 0.002, g = 0.70; Z = −2.75, p = 0.006, g = 0.96). Qualitative data analysis resulted in a total of 23 categories. The most frequently addressed categories were “Positive emotions regarding animals” and “Good memory of animals”. This pilot study provides first evidence that AAT might enhance episodic memory via positive emotions in patients with acquired brain injury.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8466
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


  • Animal Assisted Therapy/standards
  • Animals
  • Brain Injuries/therapy
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Memory, Episodic
  • Pilot Projects
  • acquired brain injury 2
  • animal-assisted therapy 1
  • episodic memory 4
  • neurorehabilitation 3
  • Episodic memory 4
  • Animal-assisted therapy 1
  • Neurorehabilitation 3
  • Acquired brain injury 2


Dive into the research topics of 'Influences of Animal-Assisted Therapy on Episodic Memory in Patients with Acquired Brain Injuries'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this