Do You Know What Your Dog Thinks?
When you look into the eyes of man’s best friend, what do you think they see? Their food source? Their home? The lazy guy who only watches football on Sundays instead of taking them to the park to play frisbee? Well, if you really are interested in finding out what your pup is actually thinking, researchers from Emory University in Atlanta have developed a new technology that can actually capture what is actually going on inside your canine pals’ minds.
A team led by Dr. Gregory Berns, Director of the Emory Center for Neuropolicy, has developed a new tactic to scan the brains of alert dogs and explore the minds of the oldest domesticated species. The new technology uses risk-free functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to search through dogs’ brains. This is also the same technology that neuroscience researchers are using to explore the depths of the human brain. But how does Berns’ team do this?
The researchers first trained two different breeds of canine, a southern squirrel-hunting dog and a collie, to walk into a fMRI machine and then stay completely still in it for five minutes while brain scans were taking place. In the first experiment, Berns’ team studied the response neurons in a dog’s brain. During the trial, one dog received a hot dog treat and one did not; the scans suggested that both dogs were exuding signals when the treat was given, but not when there was no reward system involved. Because of this, Berns said that dogs have a rewards-oriented system similar to humans because domesticated dogs pay very close attention to human signals, and are then tied to a dog’s specific neurological rewards system.
Berns also said that this research also supports the theory that dogs were the first domesticated species dating back at least 10,000 years, possibly over 30,000 years. This relationship is a major reason why humans and domesticated animals work so well together, said Berns. “There is even a chance that dogs affected human evolution.”
Next time you are walking your dog or even sitting with it on your couch watching Animal Planet, just think, “Wow, this could change history! What do you think about that?”