If you have ever wondered what your dog was thinking, you were right to believe they experience thought processes, says a new study. Currently in the initial phase, dog brain scans are being conducted at Emory University. The scans are non-invasive Magnetic Resonance Imaging, so none of the dogs are being harmed. In fact, the Emory researchers are the first to conduct these kinds of experiments while the dogs are fully alert and unrestrained.
“As far as we know, no one has been able to do this previously. We hope this opens up a whole new door for understanding canine cognition and inter-species communication,” said lead researcher Gregory Berns. (Source: Phys.org) The main purpose of studying canine thought processes is to better understand the relationship between humans and dogs.
Just two dogs are involved in the first part of the study and both are fairly young. One is an adopted Feist (squirrel hunter) and the other is a Border Collie. They were both trained to walk into an MRI scanner and hold very still. So far, the researchers have seen activity in the caudate region of the dog brains when the subjects were shown a hand signal representing a food treat. (This area of the brain has been studied in humans and is associated with rewards and romantic love.) When the dogs were shown the hand signal for no treat, there was no response in their brains.
One of the researchers said the canine brain responses they have documented indicate dogs are very attentive to human signals. This sensitivity actually may be rooted in the domestication of dogs, dating back to about 30,000 years ago. Dogs were the first species domesticated by humans. Related research has speculated certain humans and domesticated dogs co-evolved, and each species has been impacted by the other over time.
Image Credit: sannse, Wiki Commons