Researchers at Emory University have published new research into canine cognition. Entitled Functional MRI in Awake Unrestrained Dogs, the paper outlines findings of research that required two dogs to remain motionless in an MRI machine.
Yes – that’s right. Motionless. The two dogs were outfitted with special ear muffs to protect them from the noise of the MRI and trained to rest their heads on a chin rest inside the machine. As the MRI took scans of the dog’s brain activity, hand signals were used to show the dogs whether there was or wasn’t a food reward.
This is a first-ever study on awake dogs, rather than those that have been sedated. Importantly, part of the animal ethics of the study was to ensure the dogs were willing participants.
The findings show a definite brain activity response when the hand signals indicated a food reward. Those dogs are paying attention!
The lead researcher, Professor Gregory Berns, says “We hope this opens up a whole new door for understanding canine cognition and inter-species communication. We want to understand the dog-human relationship, from the dog’s perspective.”
Listen to Professor Berns talk about this project in the Emory University YouTube video: