Dog owners have always known that their dog could pick their emotional signals and respond to happiness, sadness or even illness. Now, according to a report on NPR.Org, dated February 21, 2014, a neurologist from Budapest, Attila Andics, and his team have discovered how and why this happens. It is very similar to the way humans read another person’s emotions.
In order to do the study, the dogs needed to undergo an MRI and anyone that has ever had a MRI knows that you have to be very still while inside the machine. That would not be a very easy feat for dogs, but the team of experts did indeed train the dogs to sit very still for nearly 10 minutes, and to wear head phones.
During the MRI the scientists played dog sounds, human voices and others sounds through the headphones on the dog that caused a small part of neurons to light up, much the same as the human brain had done when tested for this back in the 1990’s.
Just like in the human brain, this voice detector area doesn’t process words, but instead it processes the mood that is being heard in the voice or sound. According to the report, happy sounds made the area light up even more.
This is no secret to all the dog lovers out there. They know that their dog does in fact react to their mood, be it happy or sad. If Fido detects happiness in a voice he will react with a waging tail and an excited prance. Let his owner be sad or unhappy and Fido will nuzzle up and offer a paw or a lick to the face, possibly even washing away tears.
The team of scientists that tested the dogs discovered that this region of the dog’s brain that detects emotion in other dogs and humans is located pretty close to the same area as the human brain. The breed of dogs chosen were border collies, labradors and golden retrievers, but it apparently has nothing to do with breed.
So, how else is a dog’s brain similar to the human brain? Now that these dogs have been trained to sit through an MRI, scientists just may be finding out other secrets about the brain function of our furry friends. Dog owners have always stated that their pet “reads” their mood. Now, the next time someone disputes that, they can tell them it’s been proven.