Innovative MRI research is showing us how dogs think like humans—in more ways than one!
MRIs can do a lot. From diagnosing brain injuries to scanning for infections, MRIs are one of the most important tools for maintaining long-term health.
But did you know they can also be used to learn about animals? Thanks to MRIs, we are gaining valuable knowledge about how a dog’s brain functions.
This useful information can be used for better training and interaction with dogs, making our relationships with ol’ Fido even more rewarding!
The ability to love?
Can dogs love? Ask just about any dog owner, and the answer is enthusiastically yes! Even if you don’t own a furry friend, you’ve probably seen how dogs light up when their owner comes home. They jump around, wag their tail, and get more excited than a child at Disneyland. But in the scientific community, we need hard evidence.
Researchers with Emory University recently set out to discover how dogs feel about humans and whether they can actually experience love. The tool they used was…an MRI machine!
You can probably guess the problem though. How do you get an active, energetic dog to sit still in the small, moving space of an MRI machine? Many humans struggle with the getting through the procedure, so what about dogs? Neuroscientist Gregory Burns solved the problem by training dogs to sit still during MRI procedures, allowing him to run scans without sedating the dog, which would have ruined the experiment.
What Burns and his team found is very interesting, if not all that surprising to dog lovers. When a dog’s human returned to view, the caudate nucleus, the same area of the brain that activates when humans experience love, was ignited. This suggests that dogs experience love, attachment, and sentiment—just like us.
Understanding tone and inflection
There is strong evidence that humans can interpret dogs’ barks to know whether they are happy or sad. Can dogs return the favor? With the help of MRI scans, we are starting to discover that yes, dogs can tell whether a person is happy, sad, or angry. This might seem like another obvious conclusion for dog owners, but for the scientific community, supporting the theory with evidence is essential.
Researchers at the University of Glasgow in the UK trained 11 dogs to lie in MRI machines while wearing headphones. They then exposed the dogs to different sounds, including voices, barks, and natural noises. The findings revealed that dogs process voices in a very similar manner to people, and that dogs, like us, have a voice area in the brain, which was previously believed to be an exclusive trait for humans and primates.
What are the differences between man and dog?
Despite the apparent similarities, there are obvious differences as well. The largest difference that researchers have discovered is a dog’s response to environmental sounds. MRIs have revealed that 48% of a dog’s brain is tuned to environmental sounds like car engines, while only 3% of our brains serve this function.
Work with your local MRI experts
While it’s fascinating to see how science is using MRI technology to study humans—and the best of our friends—there’s no denying their importance in medical care. If you need MRI, CT, or X-ray services for any injury or health condition, contact POM MRI & Imaging Centers. We’ll treat you like family, ensuring you get the information you need in a calm, soothing atmosphere.