Welcome to COGNIT!

Welcome to the website which links humans and animals!

Some studies suggest that being an owner decrease cardiac risks (Mubanga et al., 2017). One of the causes proposed is that having animals encourage us to walk and do physical activities.

COGNIT (COmparative coGNItion Team) is a research group interested in the study of human and animal complex cognitive abilities. Our subjects of research are:

  • How far are complex cognitive abilities shared among various animal species?
  • How human-animal bond impact the human health?
  • How tools -such as EEG (ElectroEncephaloGrams)- used in human research could be non invasively used to investigate cognitive abilities in domestic animals?

On this website, you will find who we are, who are our collaborators and previous internships, our past and current projects. You can also find our offers of internships and collaborations to our current studies.

You are a student or a researcher interested in animal cognition, behavioural or physiological investigation? Do not hesitate and contact us for any information!

If you want to participate to one of our studies, we invite you to check our offers here.

ENJOY !

Horses live in complex social groups, which could promote the emergence of complex cognitive abilities (Aureli et al., 2008).

Our publications

Pellon S, Hallegot M., Lapique J. and Tomberg C (2020) A Redefinition of Facial Communication in Non-Human Animals. J Behav 3(1): 1017

Abstract: In humans, social communication is mostly conveyed by facial expressions, which are widely shared among Mammals. Based on current knowledge, we explore the concept of facial communication from an evolutionary point of view and examine how far it might not only be performed by Mammals, but more broadly by Amniotes. As we investigate facial communication in various species, we find out that facial expressions are restrained to Mammals. However, even if non-mammals lack of cutaneous facial muscles responsible of facial expressions, they display facial signals bearing a communicative value. Thus, facial communication is not clustered to Mammals. Moreover, some facial displays are shared by almost every Amniotes, as the eyeblink which has been suggested to be related to social factors aside its physiological role. Yet, to understand the terminology of this research field, definitions should be unified. Thus, based on current data on Amniotes’ facial communication, we proposed extended definitions of facial movements, behaviours and expressions: movements are visible displacements of body segments or tissues. They are motor action that do not need cognitive and emotional implication, while behaviours require the interpretation of environmental or internal stimuli, as the presence of an audience or emotional experiences. Behaviours are movements that can be involved in social communication. So facial behaviours are not cluster to Mammals but might be also expressed by other Amniote’s species. Whereas facial expressions are facial behaviours generated by the contraction of cutaneous facial muscles, innervated by the cranial nerve VII, and thus only expressed by Mammals.

Offre COVID-19

Mis à jour le 23/06/2020

Qu’est-ce qui favorise votre bien-être durant le confinement ?

Dans le contexte actuel de confinement dû au COVID-19, nous avons mis en place une enquête destinée à mieux comprendre ses effets, en particulier sur votre bien-être.

Les relations sociales sont importantes pour le bien-être des personnes, or elles sont largement impactées par le confinement. Cette étude a pour objectif de comprendre comment les personnes s’adaptent à cette situation, quelles stratégies sont mises en place face au confinement et leurs effets sur le bien-être des personnes.

Nous avons clos les participations pour cette étude. Nous avons reçu entre le lancement du questionnaire le 17 Avril et le 9 Mai (fin du confinement obligatoire) plus de 800 réponses !

Merci pour votre intérêt et votre participation ! 

Si cela vous intéresse, n’hésitez pas à venir régulièrement visiter notre site, nous mettrons ici des informations à propos des résultats obtenus.

Offre Validation d’un questionnaire

Mis à jour le 01/02/2021

Dans le cadre d’une étude sur l’interaction Homme-animal, nous souhaitons valider un questionnaire. Ce questionnaire n’est actuellement disponible qu’en anglais et pour les besoins de notre étude, nous devons développer un questionnaire équivalent en français. La validation d’un questionnaire requiert divers critères spécifiques, notamment de cohérence et de stabilité temporelle. Aussi, nous avons sollicité votre aide pour en valider un en français !

Nous sommes actuellement en train de finaliser la dernière étape de validation, merci à tous les participants qui y ont répondu !

Cette étape s’adressait à tous les propriétaires majeurs. Il s’agissait de répondre deux fois au questionnaire traduit en français, à deux semaines d’intervalle, pour en valider la stabilité temporelle. Les premières participations se sont clôturées le 30 Novembre.

Merci pour votre intérêt !

Our current projects

Mis à jour le 30/10/2020

  • Investigation on complex cognitive abilities in domestic animals, such as intentionality, attribution of attentional states and knowledge to others, etc
  • Study of facial expressions and micro-expressions in domestic animals (Equus caballus and Canis lupus familiaris)

An internship offer has been proposed on this subject.

  • Investigation on how animals can have effects on human health (Animal Assisted Activities and Therapies for example)

A PhD student is working on this topic since November 2019.

An online survey has been done during the COVID-19 lockdown between March and May 2020, which aimed to investigate well-being while being confined, for owners and non owners. The results are currently analyzed.

How could YOU participate to our studies ?

Mis à jour le 30/10/2020

It will depends on your profil and what you want to do:

If you are a researcher interested in collaborating with us, please contact us and explain us how and why, we will be pleased to exchange with you more about it.

If you want to do an internship, do not hesitate to contact us! You will find below internship offers we propose.

If you want to take part to our data collection, you can contact us to be informed when we need participants. Either owners and non-owners are invited! We will post below every offer of participation and survey.


Send us a message

If you want to contact us for any reason, do not hesitate to use this contact form :

I'm a studentI'm a researcherother

Our collaborators

Cédric Schwartz, Ph.D.

  • Head of the Human Motion Lab, University of Liège (Applied Science and Medicine Faculties)

Claire Villegas Drogoz

  • Psychologist
  • Animal mediation animator (with dogs, cats and rabbits) for 6 years
  • Coach in dogs’ education

Emanuelle Van Erck-Westergren, DVM, Ph.D.


Stefan Deleuze, DMV, PhD, Dipl ECAR CA-Equ


Tatiana Art, Dipl. ECEIM, PhD

Our previous communications

Virtual International Student Course in Behavioural Biology, Institut Francilien d‘Ethologie, January 2021

  • Poster « Intentionality in domestic animals: an example with horses (Equus caballus) » Sophie Pellon, Eloïse Ganier, Claude Tomberg, University of Brussels (ULB) – Belgium

Workshop « Self-Others », Brussels (Belgium), October 2019

  • Poster « Do horses (Equus caballus) adapt their behaviour according to human attentional states? » Sophie Pellon, Eloïse Ganier, Cassandre Emrot, Claude Tomberg, University of Brussels (ULB) – Belgium
  • Poster « Horses gender (Equus cabllus) influences facial expressions in an interspecific communication » Sophie Pellon, Claude Tomberg, University of Brussels (ULB) – Belgium

SFECA, Lille (France), June 2019

  • Poster « Do horses (Equus caballus) have intentional states? » Sophie Pellon, Eloïse Ganier, Claude Tomberg, University of Brussels (ULB) – Belgium

International Congres Equitation Science Meeting, Nürtingen (Germany), May 2015

  • Poster « Effects of a walk phase at the warm up onset on physiological and behavioural parameters of ridden horses (Equus caballus) » Marion Jacquot (1), Adeline Grosjean (1), Cassandre Emrot (1), Emmanuelle Van-Erck-Westergren (2), Cédric Schwartz (3) & Claude Tomberg (1). 1 : University of Brussels (ULB) – Belgium 2 : Equine Sports Medicine Practice (ESMP) – Belgium 3 : University of Liège (ULG) – Belgium
  • Poster « Characterisation of the splenius muscle’s activity (Splenius cervicis) during a walk phase at the warm up onset of ridden horses (Equus caballus) » Alice Goossens (1), Cédric Schwartz (2), Blandine Barrett (1), Marion Jacquot (1), Emmanuelle Van Erck-Westergren (3), & Claude Tomberg (1). 1 : University of Brussels (ULB) – Belgium 2 : University of Liège (ULG) – Belgium 3 : Equine Sports Medicine Practice (ESMP) – Belgium
  • Oral presentation « Effects of a walk phase at the warm up onset on physiological and behavioural parameters of ridden horses (Equus cavallus) » Marion Jacquot, University of Brussels (ULB) – Belgium

SFECA, Strasbourg (France), April 2015

  • Poster « Caractérisation de l’activité du muscle splenius de  l’encolure  (Splenius cervicis) au cours d’une phase de pas en début d’échauffement chez le cheval domestique (Equus caballus) monté » Alice Goossens (1), Cédric Schwartz (2), Blandine Barrett (1), Marion Jacquot (1), Emmanuelle Van Erck-Westergren (3), & Claude Tomberg (1). 1 : University of Brussels (ULB) – Belgium 2 : University of Liège (ULG) – Belgium 3 : Equine Sports Medicine Practice (ESMP) – Belgium
  • Poster « Effets d’une phase de pas en début d’échauffement sur des paramètres physiologiques et comportementaux chez le cheval domestique (Equus caballus) monté » Marion Jacquot (1), Adeline Grosjean (1), Cassandre Emrot (1), Emmanuelle Van-Erck-Westergren (2), Cédric Schwartz (3) & Claude Tomberg (1). 1 : University of Brussels (ULB) – Belgium 2 : Equine Sports Medicine Practice (ESMP) – Belgium 3 : University of Liège (ULG) – Belgium