Dogs’ brain scans reveal vocal responses

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By placing dogs in an MRI scanner, researchers from Hungary found that the canine brain reacts to voices in the same way that the human brain does.

Emotionally charged sounds, such as crying or laughter, also prompted similar responses, perhaps explaining why dogs are attuned to human emotions.

The work is published in the journal Current Biology.

Lead author Attila Andics, from the Comparative Ethology Research Group at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, said: "We think dogs and humans have a very similar mechanism to process emotional information."

Eleven pet dogs took part in the study; training them took some time.

"We used positive reinforcement strategies – lots of praise," said Dr Andics.

"There were 12 sessions of preparatory training, then seven sessions in the scanner room, then these dogs were able to lie motionless for as long as eight minutes. Once they were trained, they were so happy, I wouldn't have believed it if I didn't see it."

For comparison, the team looked at the brains of 22 human volunteers in the same MRI scanners.

The scientists played the people and pooches 200 different sounds, ranging from environmental noises, such as car sounds and whistles, to human sounds (but not words) and dog vocalisations.

The researchers found that a similar region – the temporal pole, which is the most anterior part of the temporal lobe – was activated when both the animals and people heard human voices.

"We do know there are voice areas in humans, areas that respond more strongly to human sounds that any other types of sounds," Dr Andics explained.

"The location (of the activity) in the dog brain is very similar to where we found it in the human brain. The fact that we found these areas exist at all in the dog brain at all is a surprise – it is the first time we have seen this in a non-primate."

Written By: Rebecca Morelle
continue to source article at bbc.co.uk

19 COMMENTS

  1. Playing the Devil’s (or perhaps God’s) advocate for a moment. It is entirely reasonable that canines have a voice response area in the brain as God would probably have simply pulled this from his tool kit when designing us, and knowing that we were going to domesticate the dog, he ensured the mammal had the required tools to support us. Natural selection would have seen this wasteful area of the brain quickly removed over generations so clearly this disproves Darwin.

    Actually anyone who has seen a sheep/cow dog at work will not be surprised to learn that canines have some ability for language comprehension. Even my old dog learned to recognise phrases such as ‘feed the dog’ and ‘get off the sofa’. Clearly the presence of the language centre allowed us to domesticate the dog rather than some designer intending us to do so and so equipping the animal in readiness, but an argument like the one in my first paragraph must be tempting for the deluded clinging to their beliefs.

    • In reply to #1 by naskew:

      Playing the Devil’s (or perhaps God’s) advocate for a moment. It is entirely reasonable that canines have a voice response area in the brain as God would probably have simply pulled this from his tool kit when designing us, and knowing that we were going to domesticate the dog, he ensured the mammal…

      Naskew, that is the “god diddit” argument that believers slap on any scientific information and you’re right. As hardcore dogma, it cannot really be disputed with reason and evidence. It’s like a coat of ‘god’ paint that they use to cover the entire real universe.

  2. This seems to confirm what every dog owner already knows, that our pets react to us in distinct ways, depending on our moods or tones. There must be scores of cute videos on the Internet of dogs hanging their head in shame when being accused or admonished. And all I have to do is say “Walkies??” in a high pitch for my dachshund to spring to life out of her doze and run to me with her tail wagging. I never trained her, no more than parents ‘train’ an infant to respond to their voices.

  3. I’ve searched on line for the video of an experiment with a few thousand dogs showing that they all display the some gaze pattern when looking at the human face: initially looking from one eye to the other, then settling down to always focus on one eye.

    I can’t remember which eye it is, but not one animal deviated from it!

    Does anyone know of the experiment, and if so can they please supply a link to the video of it?

    I have an affinity with dogs which I lack with cats I’m afraid; the latter almost invariably dig their claws into me after a short time; I think my tension transmits itself somehow, perhaps by a change in my odour.

  4. My last dog was a Border Collie, one of those irritating Border Collies with a 140 (roughly) word vocabulary. It is more than a little humbling having a dog that is probably smarter, relative to the rest of its species than you are relative to yours.
    She and I communicated at a whole non verbal level. She did things to the amazement of onlookers that made them think that her vocabulary was far more extensive than it actually was.

    “Sheila (name of dog,) I want you go round the first car you can find with a Lucas electrical system in it.” Off she would trot around the Jaguar, or other English car, in the parking lot. The words were for the people. For the dog, all it took was a glance, just a shift off my eyes, for her to identify the target. Then, her real vocabulary, which included all the prepositions, up, down, around, over, through etc would tell her what to do next.

    The people watching were firmly convinced that the dog knew about automotive electrical systems. Poor things!

    In a better designed universe, dogs would have the life span that television envangelists presently enjoy, and they would have the life span that dogs are presently inflicted with. something I must fix, when I am ruler of the universe.

    • In reply to #8 by Sheepdog:

      In a better designed universe, dogs would have the life span that television envangelists presently enjoy, and they would have the life span that dogs are presently inflicted with. something I must fix, when I am ruler of the universe.

      The Power of the Dog, by Rudyard Kipling

      THERE is sorrow enough in the natural way
      From men and women to fill our day;
      And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
      Why do we always arrange for more?
      Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
      Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

      Buy a pup and your money will buy
      Love unflinching that cannot lie
      Perfect passion and worship fed
      By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
      Nevertheless it is hardly fair
      To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

      When the fourteen years which Nature permits
      Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
      And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
      To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
      Then you will find – it’s your own affair, -
      But … you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.

      When the body that lived at your single will,
      With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!),
      When the spirit that answered your every mood
      Is gone – wherever it goes – for good,
      You will discover how much you care,
      And will give your heart to a dog to tear!

      We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
      When it comes to burying Christian clay.
      Our loves are not given, but only lent,
      At compound interest of cent per cent,
      Though it is not always the case, I believe,
      That the longer we’ve kept ‘em, the more do we grieve;
      For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
      A short-time loan is as bad as a long -
      So why in – Heaven (before we are there)
      Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

      • Katy,

        Thank you for posting this. I am an avid reader and somehow this gem has never crossed my desk (until now). I just printed it and will hang it in my classroom and forward it to some of my family and friends. Again, thanks.

        In reply to #12 by Katy Cordeth:

        In reply to #8 by Sheepdog:

        In a better designed universe, dogs would have the life span that television envangelists presently enjoy, and they would have the life span that dogs are presently inflicted with. something I must fix, when I am ruler of the universe.

        The Power of the Dog, by Rudyard K…

    • In reply to #9 by GnuAtheist:

      They did a similar study with cats. The only difference is that cats responded to the entire range of human emotions and vocalizations with the feline equivalent of, “Whatever…”

      Dogs have owners, cats have staff.

      • In reply to #14 by Sheepdog:

        In reply to #9 by GnuAtheist:

        They did a similar study with cats. The only difference is that cats responded to the entire range of human emotions and vocalizations with the feline equivalent of, “Whatever…”

        Dogs have owners, cats have staff.

        Dogs think: you give me food and drink, you give me shelter and affection and ask for nothing in return; you must be a God.

        Cats think: you give me food and drink, you give me shelter and affection and ask for nothing in return; I must be a God.

        S G

        • Cats are opportunistic ambush predators, dogs are cooperative pack hunters.

          Cats have a vocabulary of perhaps 14 words where even the dimmest of dogs has over 100

          Not to knock cats but they never had an evolutionary reason to develop the capacity to have an extensive vocabulary

          In reply to #18 by Stafford Gordon:

          In reply to #14 by Sheepdog:

          In reply to #9 by GnuAtheist:

          They did a similar study with cats. The only difference is that cats responded to the entire range of human emotions and vocalizations with the feline equivalent of, “Whatever…”

          Dogs have owners, cats have staff.

          Dogs think: you give…

          • In reply to #19 by wdbailey:

            Cats are opportunistic ambush predators, dogs are cooperative pack hunters.

            Cats have a vocabulary of perhaps 14 words where even the dimmest of dogs has over 100

            Not to knock cats but they never had an evolutionary reason to develop the capacity to have an extensive vocabulary

            In reply to #18 b…

            Blame can’t be apportioned of course, but in a nutshell, dogs are domesticated and cats aren’t.

            S G

  5. In reply to #12 by Katy Cordeth:

    In reply to #8 by Sheepdog:

    In a better designed universe, dogs would have the life span that television envangelists presently enjoy, and they would have the life span that dogs are presently inflicted with. something I must fix, when I am ruler of the universe.

    Thank you for that. I read a lot of Kipling, but that one has missed me until now. I think that Kipling’s anti-semitism coupled with a few other currently unfashionable views have effectively silenced one of the strongest voices in the English language. Bring back Kipling, bring back Conrad!

    Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,

    Where there aren’t no Ten Commandments an’ a man can raise a thirst;

    For the temple-bells are callin’, an’ it’s there that I would be —

    By the old Moulmein Pagoda, looking lazy at the sea;

    On the road to Mandalay,

    Where the old Flotilla lay,

    With our sick beneath the awnings when we went to Mandalay!

    On the road to Mandalay,

    Where the flyin’-fishes play,

    An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay!

    Jingoistic, Xenophobic, probably racist, and marvelously emotive. Thanks again.

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