New Brain Scans Show How Your Dog Thinks

“I feel it could open a total new kind of research on cognition,” stated neuroscientist Greg Berns of Emory University, lead author on a dog-scanning study that will be published in Public Library of Science One.

Berns described the original findings, in which brain regions expected to grow to be active in anticipation of reward did just that, as a proof-of-idea to show that studying a canine inside a functional magnetic resonance imager was logistically possible.

According to Berns, who typically investigates how human choice-making plays out in our brains, canines may be a better animal model for learning cognition than the monkeys generally utilised in such research.

FMRI representations of neurological activity developed by reward anticipation in the brains of Callie and McKenzie. To a monkey, a laboratory full of humans is a profoundly strange and unnatural environment, which could influence how it thinks — whereas interacting with humans is 2nd nature to canines.

Of course, standing inside an FMRI machine is not precisely a normal canine experience, and Berns’ group necessary eight months to train his dogs, a 2-year-old feist named Callie and a 3-year-old border collie named McKenzie, to continue to be motionless inside the machine whilst wearing noise-reducing earmuffs.

Among the queries that may well be studied is no matter whether canines understand the language of human commands, or react far more to body movements or other cues.

“One of the factors we’re interested in is how dogs represent people: Are we all just a pack to them, like Cesar Millan says? What component of the brain represents people and other canines? It could be sound, or scent, or any of individuals modalities,” Berns stated.

Canine empathy, and how it compares to the human version, is another possible region of investigation.

“Dog-lovers are convinced their canines know what they’re feeling. Honestly, I’m on the fence about that. Maybe that’s simply because of my own canines,” stated Berns. “Skeptics out there — a.k.a. cat people — feel dogs are just excellent actors. I do not think it is really like that. But how far it goes, I’d enjoy to figure out.”

Citation: “Functional MRI in Awake Unrestrained Dogs.” By Gregory Berns, Andrew Brooks and Mark Spivak. Public Library of Science ONE, publication date to-be-determined.

Brandon is a Wired Science reporter and freelance journalist. Primarily based in Brooklyn, New York and sometimes Bangor, Maine, he’s fascinated with science, culture, historical past and nature.

Sources and more information:

• What is your dog thinking? Brain scans unleash canine secrets