Dogs may pick up on emotions like you do, science says

Brain scans show that dogs are dying for a beer and secretly wish they were with Scarlett Johansson or Channing Tatum. Or, more precisely, that they react emotionally to sound, in very similar ways to humans.

This is a dog having its brain scanned. Don't worry, it's happy. Current Biology/Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Dogs with long faces have owners with long faces.

But it's not just a physical thing between dogs and their owners, is it? I have often thought that neurotic dogs have owners who could do with a little recuperation on a far-off beach and several massages a day.

Now science has trotted up to declare that dogs do, indeed, process life in a similar manner to humans.

As Wired reported on Thursday, Hungarian scientists thought they'd scan a few dogs brains to see if they could find the bones of a mindset. What comparative ethologist Attila Andics of Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary and his team found was that dogs are attuned to voices and sounds just as we are.

The team used 11 golden retrievers and border collies in its work. It exposed them to the sounds of dogs and humans, while scanning their brains. It did the same thing with the same sounds on 22 human guinea pigs.

Oddly, the humans actually responded most to human sounds. I had always thought many humans preferred animals to their own species.

In the dogs, a similar voice-attuned brain region responded most to the sound of other dogs. They also responded to other types of sound, which the humans did not.

Moreover, the dogs in this study offered more of a reaction to human voices than the humans did to the sound of dogs. The researchers believe that these results show that somewhere, perhaps 100 million years ago, dogs and humans had the same evolutionary source.

In the end, it might begin to explain the fact that both dogs and humans seem to be such emotional creatures. It might also offer science a path to discovering just how human language was created.

The study, published in Current Biology, is accompanied by a fascinating video which shows the research in action. Only dogs who were happy to go into the fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scanner were examined.

Andics believes that this research is the first step in understanding why man/dog communication is generally very successful. Well, except when it comes to the neurotic dogs and owners, that is.

One of the golden retrievers ready to have its brain scanned. Current Biology/Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET
 

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