Our suspicions are confirmed: Dogs are just like us! At least when it comes to processing voices and emotions. We’ve got the brain scans to prove it.
A new study from Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary shows that dogs have the same kind of brain system for processing voices that humans have. This part of the brain can also interpret emotions in the same way that humans do.
This experiment is the first neuro-imaging study to compare a primate species to a non-primate species. Basically, the researches took 11 dogs and, using an MRI machine, watched what happened when they played recordings of human sounds and dog sounds. They also took 22 humans and had them listen to the same sounds. Then, they compared the MRI scans.
When listening to the voices, the same regions of the brain lit up in both the humans and the dogs. The sound of a whimpering dog had a similar effect on the dog brain as the sound of a baby crying had on a human brain. The dogs also responded to human voices, and the brain scans showed that the dogs could tell if the humans were happy or sad.
This is exciting news, although it’s not entirely unexpected. After all, dogs and humans share a common ancestor 100 million years ago, and scientists expect that evolution favored particularly sympathetic dogs starting about 15,000 years ago when man’s best friend was first domesticated. As Wired points out, though, the study does leave a number of questions unanswered. What, for instance, do the dogs actually hear when they hear a human voice? We’ll never know until we find a way to read dogs’ minds.
Images via Borbala Ferenczy / Current Biology / Eniko Kubinyi