Yet more research on how dogs’ brains work. This time from a research team at Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary and published in the journal Current Biology.
Using functional MRI, the team could see where blood flowed in the brains of a group of 11 dogs. The dogs had been specially trained using positive reinforcement techniques to lie still in the MRI scanner for six minutes.
The team played each dog a series of over 200 sounds across several MRI sessions. The sounds included human voices, dog vocalizations, and meaningless noises.
When the results were compared, it showed that the dogs’ brains appear to have a dedicated area that displays more activity in response to voices (whether human speech or dogs barking) than other meaningless noises (such as glass breaking).
More importantly, that part of the brain shows more activity upon hearing an emotionally positive sound, as compared to a negative one. This means that our dogs are able to distinguish a tone of voice that is positive from one that is negative. (Something many of us probably already knew)
The voice areas of the dogs’ brains is similar to that found in humans, suggesting that our species evolved from a common ancestor almost 100 million years ago, enabling a high degree of communication and social structure.
“We know that dogs don’t have language, per se, but we see now that dogs have very similar mechanisms to process social information as humans,” Attila Andics, lead researcher on the study says. “It makes us wonder what aspects of so-called ‘language skills’ are not so human-specific after all, but are also there in other species. That’s something we plan to look at.”
Source: Smithsonian Magazine
Here are my earlier blogs about functional MRI studies on dogs: