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A six-step process to explore facial expressions performances to detect pain in dairy cows with lipopolysaccharide-induced clinical mastitis

By May 12th 2023May 31st, 2023No Comments

Document type: scientific article available online before publication in Applied Animal Behaviour Science

Authors: L. Ginger, L. Aubé, D. Ledoux, M. Borot, C. David, M. Bouchon, M. Leach, D. Durand, A. de Boyer des Roches



Preview: This study aimed to explore the performances of Facial Action Units (FAUs) to detect pain in cows under lipopolysaccharide (LPS) challenge though a six-step process based on expression, selectivity (construct validity, responsiveness), intra- and inter-observer reliability, and measurement error (specificity, Sp; sensitivity, Se).
Twenty-seven cows received an intra-mammary infusion of 25 µg E. coli LPS in one healthy udder quarter. Then, 14 cows received a placebo (LPS cows) and 13 cows received 3 mg/kg BW ketoprofen i.m. (LPS+NSAID cows). Each cow's face was video-recorded for 40 s at three time points before (T-21 = 11:30 h, T-19 = 13:30 h, T-16 = 16:30 h) and after (T3 = 11:30 h, T5 = 13:30 h, T8 = 16:30 h) infusion. Three trained observers scored the duration, frequency or presence/absence of 43 FAUs on 40 second video segments. We kept only the selective FAUs (construct validity) and transformed them into binary variables ( below / above a threshold determined by ROC curves and Youden index). Intra- and inter-observer reliability were assessed by percentage of agreement (PA) and Fleiss' kappa (k). We calculated Sp and Se. The process therefore consisted in waterfall method with expression, selectivity, intra-observer reliability being an eliminative step, while inter-observer reliability, Sp and Se were not. FAUs were kept if expressed (>5% of the videos), and kept for intra-observer reliability if PA≥75% and k≥0.41.
Two too rarely expressed FAUs were excluded. LPS infusion induced changes in 7 FAUs of orbital, auricular, and mouth-and-muzzle regions. Compared to before challenge (T-19), at T5, LPS cows spent significantly less time with 'muzzle in motion' (P=0.045), tended to display more 'nostril dilation' (P=0.097), spend more time with 'motionless muzzle' (P=0.068) and less time in 'ear: position 8' (i.e. backwards /central/pinna to the side) (P=0.057). At T8, LPS cows spent significantly less time with 'eye open' (P=0.036) and tended to less frequently display 'eye blinking' (P=0.071) and 'eye movements' (P=0.091) compared to T-16. Four of these 7 FAUs ('eye open', 'motionless muzzle', 'muzzle in motion', 'nostril dilatation') satisfied all following steps of the process except sensitivity. Two other FAUs ('eye blinking', 'eye movements') satisfied intra- and inter-observer reliability; depending on the time point considered they were either sensitive or specific but not both simultaneously. The last FAU ('ear: position 8') satisfied intra-observer reliability and sensitivity but not inter-observer reliability nor specificity. This study identified 7 FAUs as potential candidate for detecting mild pain associated with induced inflammatory mastitis in dairy cows.


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