Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Dogs: Hopelessly Devoted to Our Stink

It turns out that dogs really do love us -- in fact, they love us more than anything else in the world. 

Magnetic Resonance Imaging of dog brains shows that one of the things that sets a dog's hear aflutter is the smell of their owners. From the good folks at Brain.mic

The most direct brain-based evidence that dogs are hopelessly devoted to humans comes from a recent neuroimaging study about odor processing in the dog brain. Animal cognition scientists at Emory University trained dogs to lie still in an MRI machine and used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to measure their neural responses to the smell of people and dogs, both familiar and unknown. Because dogs navigate the world through their noses, the way they process smell offers a lot of potential insight into social behavior.

The scientists found that dog owners' aroma actually sparked activation in the "reward center" of their brains, called the caudate nucleus. Of all the wafting smells to take in, dogs actually prioritized the hint of humans over anything or anyone else....

Among other surprising findings, the study revealed marked similarities in the way dog and human brains process emotionally laden vocal sounds. Researchers found that happy sounds in particular light up the auditory cortex in both species. This commonality speaks to the uniquely strong communication system underlying the dog-human bond.

In short: Dogs don't just seem to pick up on our subtle mood changes — they are actually physically wired to pick up on them.

1 comment:

jeffrey thurston said...

I like this- it goes to show the difference between hard science and an MRI and squishy powder-puff soft science like "applied animal behavior"! According to some ridiculous study I read about a few years ago dogs don't really like us- they're just showing "clinging behavior with an insecure ambivalent attachment style". This according to "animal behaviorist" Therese Rehn who used (get this) the Ainsworth Strange Situation Procedure (developed for TODDLERS by another made up profession- child psychologists) to study dogs. At the end of the study her conclusion was that dogs who do more stuff with their owners are more attached. This is a real shock to anyone who knows about dogs-eh? Anyway- the brilliant scam artist Ms. Rehn used a sample of 20 dogs to come to this earth shattering conclusion. She really earns that money for spending lots of time and energy to guess at what everybody already knows- what a benighted world without her and her ilk...