• Easter Bush, Roslin Institute Building

    EH25 9RG Midlothian

    United Kingdom

1993 …2024

Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research interests

My primary focus is understanding the biology of positive animal welfare (PAW) using behaviour as a starting point but also using other disciplines and techniques as applicable including physiology, neurobiology, molecular biology and genetics. At the conceptual level, I am interested in the various ideas that are included within PAW such as positive emotions and happiness in animals (Lawrence et al., 2019).  Our conceptual work on PAW links to social science research where we try and understand different perspectives of PAW as a way of better targeting improvements to PAW in practice (e.g. Vigors and Lawrence, 2019). 

Experimentally we use different approaches to study PAW and positive experiences in animals including studies of play behaviour (e.g. Brown et al., 2015) and the use of environmental enrichment to enhance animal environments (e.g. Brown et al., 2017). Our work also includes the use of ‘rat tickling’ which has been proposed as an approach to induce positive emotions (e.g. Bombail et al., 2019; Hammond et al., 2019). We currently have a NC3Rs grant to refine approaches for rat tickling to improve welfare (https://www.nc3rs.org.uk/our-portfolio/refinement-tickling-protocols-improve-positive-animal-welfare-laboratory-rats). 

An important element of our work is to understand the relationship between the conditions under which animals are managed and their brain health. Brain health as a concept has been largely confined to humans and refers to how the brain copes with challenges such as old age and neuro-degenerative diseases. However, much of what we know about brain health comes from animal studies and there is increasing evidence that the concept of brain health also has considerable significance to animal health and welfare.  We have found evidence of positive effects from short and longer-term exposure to enrichment in grower pigs on brain development and health (see Brown et al., 2017 and Brown et al., 2018). We are currently analysing the effects of early life enrichment on brain development in piglets using a variety of measurement approaches including MRI.

See also our newly launched web-site aimed at promoting understanding of the science behind positive animal welfare (https://www.positiveanimalwelfare.net/). 

My current collaborators include Vincent Bombail, Emma Baxter, Francoise Wemelsfelder, Kenny Rutherford, Simon Turner, Cathy Dwyer, Lesley Jessiman, Sam Beechener (SRUC); Sarah Brown, Simone Meddle, Neil Mabbott (Roslin); Peter Kind, Raven Hickson, Gerry Thompson (University of Edinburgh); Mike Mendl, Emma Robinson (University of Bristol); Jess Martin (University of Newcastle); Peter Sandoe (University of Copenhagen); Ruth Newberry (Norwegian University of Life Sciences); Marek Spinka (Czeck University of Life Sciences). 


Professor of Animal Behaviour and Welfare at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh. Professor Lawrence is an established international expert in animal behaviour and welfare. He carried out his PhD on sheep social behaviour under the supervision of Professor David Wood-Gush (an early founder of animal welfare science) before building a team of researchers focusing on the application of animal behaviour to interpret and improve animal welfare in a range of farm species. His past research interests have included the aetiology of stereotypic behaviour, the measurement of stress and negative emotional states, the role of early experience in neonatal development and welfare, the genetics of behavioural traits and young peoples’ perceptions of animal welfare.  Since stepping down as Head of the Animal & Veterinary Science Group (SRUC) in 2014 he has been working on positive animal welfare including conceptual work and experimental research on play behaviour and environmental enrichment. More recently, he has begun work on the concept of brain health and the relevance of this to animal health and welfare. 


I regard teaching as an essential aspect of an academic career. I have taught throughout my career at undergraduate and postgraduate levels to a mixture of students from biological, agricultural and veterinary courses. I am a co-founder of the internationally recognised MSc in Applied Animal & Welfare at Edinburgh which has been running successfully in Edinburgh since 1990. 


Recently completed and current PhD projects: 

‘Assessing and understanding causes of play in calves’ joint with University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna and Czech University of Life Sciences Prague (2018-2022).
‘Rat tickling as a model to understand and improve positive welfare in confined animals’ joint with INRAE, Paris and The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh (2018-2022). 
‘Neurological correlates of rat tickling’ joint with The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh (2018-2021).
‘Effects of early play on later resilience in rats’ joint with the University of Edinburgh (2019-2023). 
‘Practical diets to improve dry sow welfare: improving satiety and reducing gastric ulcers’ with Edinburgh University (2019-2023). 

'Behavioural and neuroscience based studies to advance understanding of intra-uterine growth retardation in pigs with University of Eedinburgh (2023-2030). 


2020 awarded by the BBSRC in support of research to operationalise social competence to improve the welfare of pigs £686k 

2021 awarded by NC3Rs to support research to refine rat tickling as an approach to improve animal welfare £333k

2022 awarded by Scottish Government to support research to improve positive animal welfare and sustainability £569k

2022 awarded by Scottish Government to support research to understand challenges and opportunties for animal welfare posed by EU-exit £430k


Education/Academic qualification

PhD, Social Behaviour of Hill Sheep , University of Edinburgh

1 Sept 19801 Jan 1984

Award Date: 14 Jul 1984

Bachelor, Zoology, University of St Andrews

1 Sept 19731 Jul 1977

Award Date: 1 Jul 1977


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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  • The Human Affectome

    Schiller, D., Yu, A. N. C., Alia-Klein, N., Becker, S., Cromwell, H. C., Dolcos, F., Eslinger, P. J., Frewen, P., Kemp, A. H., Pace-Schott, E. F., Raber, J., Silton, R. L., Stefanova, E., Williams, J. H. G., Abe, N., Aghajani, M., Albrecht, F., Alexander, R., Anders, S., Aragón, O. R., & 156 othersArias, J. A., Arzy, S., Aue, T., Baez, S., Balconi, M., Ballarini, T., Bannister, S., Banta, M. C., Barrett, K. C., Belzung, C., Bensafi, M., Booij, L., Bookwala, J., Boulanger-Bertolus, J., Boutros, S. W., Bräscher, A-K., Bruno, A., Busatto, G., Bylsma, L. M., Caldwell-Harris, C., Chan, R. C. K., Cherbuin, N., Chiarella, J., Cipresso, P., Critchley, H., Croote, D. E., Demaree, H. A., Denson, T. F., Depue, B., Derntl, B., Dickson, J. M., Dolcos, S., Drach-Zahavy, A., Dubljević, O., Eerola, T., Ellingsen, D-M., Fairfield, B., Ferdenzi, C., Friedman, B. H., Fu, C. H. Y., Gatt, J. M., deGelder, B., Gendolla, G. H. E., Gilam, G., Goldblatt, H., Gooding, A. E. K., Gosseries, O., Hamm, A. O., Hanson, J. L., Hendler, T., Herbert, C., Hofmann, S. G., Ibanez, A., Joffily, M., Jovanovic, T., Kahrilas, I. J., Kangas, M., Katsumi, Y., Kensinger, E., Kirby, L. A. J., Koncz, R., Koster, E. H. W., Kozlowska, K., Krach, S., Kret, M. E., Krippl, M., Kusi-Mensah, K., Ladouceur, C. D., Laureys, S., Lawrence, A., Li, C-S. R., Liddell, B. J., Lidhar, N. K., Lowry, C. A., Magee, K., Marin, M-F., Mariotti, V., Martin, L. J., Marusak, H. A., Mayer, A. V., Merner, A. R., Minnier, J., Moll, J., Morrison, R. G., Moore, M., Mouly, A-M., Mueller, S. C., Mühlberger, A., Murphy, N. A., Muscatello, M. R. A., Musser, E. D., Newton, T. L., Noll-Hussong, M., Norrholm, S. D., Northoff, G., Nusslock, R., Okon-Singer, H., Olino, T. M., Ortner, C., Owolabi, M., Padulo, C., Palermo, R., Palumbo, R., Palumbo, S., Papadelis, C., Pegna, A. J., Pellegrini, S., Peltonen, K., Penninx, B. W. J. H., Pietrini, P., Pinna, G., Lobo, R. P., Polnaszek, K. L., Polyakova, M., Rabinak, C., HeleneRichter, S., Richter, T., Riva, G., Rizzo, A., Robinson, J. L., Rosa, P., Sachdev, P. S., Sato, W., Schroeter, M. L., Schweizer, S., Shiban, Y., Siddharthan, A., Siedlecka, E., Smith, R. C., Soreq, H., Spangler, D. P., Stern, E. R., Styliadis, C., Sullivan, G. B., Swain, J. E., Urben, S., Van den Stock, J., Vander Kooij, M. A., van Overveld, M., Van Rheenen, T. E., VanElzakker, M. B., Ventura-Bort, C., Verona, E., Volk, T., Wang, Y., Weingast, L. T., Weymar, M., Williams, C., Willis, M. L., Yamashita, P., Zahn, R., Zupan, B., Lowe, L., Gabriela, G., Charlotte F, H. & Leonie, L., Mar 2024, In: Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews. 158, 105450.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    Open Access
    7 Citations (Scopus)
    37 Downloads (Pure)
  • An exploratory interview study of researchers’ and technicians’ perceptions of rat tickling

    Beechener, ES., Brown, S. M., Bombail, VB., LaFollette, M. R., Vinuela-Fernandez, I. & Lawrence, AB., Dec 2023, Animal Technology and Welfare, 22, 3, p. 201-209 9 p.

    Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationFeatured article

    Open Access
    11 Downloads (Pure)
  • Defining the pig microglial transcriptome reveals its core signature, regional heterogeneity, and similarity with human and rodent microglia

    Shih, B. B., Brown, S. M., Barrington, J., Lefevre, L., Mabbott, N. A., Priller, J., Thompson, G., Lawrence, A. B. & McColl, B. W., Feb 2023, In: GLIA. 71, 2, p. 334-349 16 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Open Access
    3 Citations (Scopus)
    59 Downloads (Pure)
  • Piglets’ behaviour and performance in relation to sow characteristics

    Baxter, E. M., Hall, S. A., Farish, M., Donbavand, J., Brims, M., Jack, M., Lawrence, A. B. & Camerlink, I., Feb 2023, In: Animal. 17, 2, 100699.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Open Access
    8 Citations (Scopus)
    63 Downloads (Pure)
  • Positive welfare: What does it add to the debate over pig welfare?

    Lawrence, AB., Newberry, R. & Spinka, M., 3 Oct 2023, Advances in Pig Welfare, Second Edition. Baxter, E. & Camerlink, I. (eds.). 2nd ed. Elsevier, p. 83-112 30 p.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter