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Studying Dog Brains

Research into how dogs think is yielding some amazing results, although a lot of it just confirms what we already thought from behavior observation, but did not know for sure. What’s amazing is how its done. Imagine putting a dog in an MRI machine.

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.

Other studies show that dogs process information a lot like people do -and quite differently from what we know of cats and other animals. Read more about canine brain research at at Brain Mic, and do not miss the picture of the good dog waiting for his MRI. -via Metafilter

(Image credit: Borbala Ferenczy)


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