Biological basis of the behavior of sick animals

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 1988 Summer;12(2):123-37. doi: 10.1016/s0149-7634(88)80004-6.


The most commonly recognized behavioral patterns of animals and people at the onset of febrile infectious diseases are lethargy, depression, anorexia, and reduction in grooming. Findings from recent lines of research are reviewed to formulate the perspective that the behavior of sick animals and people is not a maladaptive response or the effect of debilitation, but rather an organized, evolved behavioral strategy to facilitate the role of fever in combating viral and bacterial infections. The sick individual is viewed as being at a life or death juncture and its behavior is an all-out effort to overcome the disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Fever / physiopathology
  • Interleukin-1 / physiology
  • Neuroimmunomodulation*
  • Sleep / physiology


  • Interleukin-1