Neurobiology of Arousal: The Yerkes Dodson Law

The Yerkes Dodson Law says that there is an optimal level of arousal needed for the highest level of performance. In practical terms this means that when an animal’s arousal levels are very low or very high their performance is poor, but performance is high when an optimal, middle ranging, level of arousal is achieved.

In this webinar we will examine the neurobiology of arousal and how it relates to the Yerkes Dodson Law. We will relate this to practical examples of working with animals to train skills or modify behavior, helping us to understand and prioritize an individual’s needs, and maximize performance.
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The webinar is suitable for pet owners, veterinary professionals, animal trainers, animal behaviorists, pet guardians, and anyone with an interest in the neuroscience of training and behavior. 

1.5 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) Available:
CPDT
IAABC
KPA
PPAG
RACE

In this Webinar: 

In 1955 Donald Hebb wrote about the ‘inverted U’ relationship between arousal and performance. Because of its similarity to the inverted U relationship outlined by Yerkes and Dodson’s experiments on habituation and performance earlier in 1908, Hebb’s concept was forever referred to as an example of the Yerkes Dodson Law.

The Yerkes Dodson Law says that there is an optimal level of arousal needed for the highest level of performance. In practical terms this means that when an animal’s arousal levels are very low or very high their performance is poor, but performance is high when an optimal, middle ranging, level of arousal is achieved.

Performance here could mean sports performance or indeed learning and memory performance, and so this relationship has application for both training and for behaviour modification techniques that involve learning and memory.

In this webinar we will examine the neurobiology of arousal and how it relates to the Yerkes Dodson Law. We will relate this to practical examples of working with animals to train skills or modify behavior, helping us to understand and prioritize an individual’s needs, and maximize performance.


Learning Objectives:

  • Attendees will understand the Yerkes Dodson Law and how this is applied to animal behavior
  • Attendees will gain knowledge of the neurobiology of arousal and it’s interaction with learning, memory, stress and behavior
  • Attendees will be able to integrate and apply their knowledge to their own cases


Discounts are available for groups of 5 or more - please contact [email protected] for more information.

Cancellation policy: No refunds


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Meet the instructor

Kathy Murphy BVetMed, DPhil, CVA, CLAS, MRCVS

Dr Kathy Murphy (BVetMed, DPhil, CVA, CLAS, MRCVS) is a veterinary surgeon and neuroscientist. She graduated from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons UK in 1999, initially working in mixed clinical practice before studying for two post graduate clinical qualifications with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, in Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia, and Laboratory Animal Science.

In 2009 she was awarded a highly prestigious Welcome Trust Research Training Fellowship to study for her PhD, in Behavioral Neuroscience, at The Queens College, University of Oxford, UK. She subsequently worked in the USA as Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Anesthesiology at the Icahn School of Medicine NYC, where her research into the long term effects of anesthesia on learning and memory contributed to a change to the safety advice for the use of general anesthesia in children.

She moved back to the UK in 2013, to take up clinical-academic positions at the University of Oxford and subsequently Newcastle University, and concurrently completed a Residency in Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia with the European College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia, during which she became increasingly interested in how pain re-models the nervous system and this can manifest as behavioral problems in pets.

Alongside these positions Dr Murphy founded, and is now Director of, Barking Brains Ltd (a neuroscience outreach platform for the animal behavior and training community), which focuses on translating neuroscientific information into practical and useful information for people interested in animal behavior. In order to maximize the impact of her diverse interests and skill set, Dr Murphy teamed up with Behavior Vets in 2022 when she took up the position of Chief Scientific Officer.

She is now able to focus on her new found passion for science communication and providing evidence based, up to date, accessible, scientific information to clinicians, animal professionals and their clients, about subjects related to pain, behavior, neurobiology and the many interrelated factors.

In addition to Dr Murphy's primary career roles she was Trustee and Veterinary Advisor to the Rottweiler Welfare Association for 14 years; is co-founder of Ethics First (a collective which lobbies for ethical decision making in clinical practice); is an Oversight Committee Member for the UK Dog Behavior and Training Charter; a guest lecturer in Clinical Animal Behavior at the University of Edinburgh, UK; lectures internationally; sits on numerous National and International boards, working groups and ethical review panels; is an ad-hoc reviewer for neuroscience, veterinary medicine and anesthesia and pain journals; and continues to collaborate on research projects.

Dr Murphy lives in the UK with her husband Elliot (ret. Search and Rescue handler and now scentwork and mantrailing trainer) and their 4 dogs: Nancy a Rottweiler mix, Zebedee and Nela the German Shorthaired Pointers and Albi a Weimaraner.
Patrick Jones - Course author