Bridging the Gap; Similarities between canine and human brains

Advances in neuroscience and the advent of sophisticated imaging are making it possible to look inside Fido’s brain and the findings may surprise you. A study recently revealed that dogs use the same part of their brain to process speech as their human counterparts. Findings released by researchers at the Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, Hungary showed that dogs, like people, use the left hemisphere of their brain to process words, and the right hemisphere to process intonation, according to a story published online Sept. 2 by Reuters.

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Maya, a Hungarian golden retriever, was part of the control group used in the study. Researchers scanned the brains of 13 dogs to uncover findings, including the premise that praise activates dogs’ reward center only when both words and intonation match.

“We showed dogs praise words and non-praise words, in both praising and non-praising intonation, and we found that dogs just like humans can separately process word meaning information … in the speech signal and intonational information,” lead researcher Attila Andics of the Department of Ethology told Reuters.

Additionally, in the research, the dogs of different breeds, including border collies, golden retrievers, a Chinese crested dog and a German shepherd, were trained to lie completely motionless in an MRI scanner for seven minutes so that researchers could measure their brain activity while they listened to words from their trainers.

Dogs were fitted with headphones and then listened to spoken praise words such as “super,’ “well done,” and “good boy,” Andics said.

Dogs heard praise words in praising intonation, praise words in neutral intonation, and also some neutral conjunction words, meaningless to them, in praising and neutral intonations, the article further states.

“The reward center in dogs’ brains became activated for praise words in praising intonation but not for any of the other three combinations,” Andics said.

Researchers believe the new findings could lead to examining whether dogs can differentiate between speakers and meaningful sentences, she said.

NYC dog trainers, Manhattan dog trainers , LI dog trainers,  Westchester dog trainers, Brooklyn dog trainers and Bronx dog trainers specializing in obedience training and Service Dog training are acutely aware of the relationship between commands, praise and intonation. But to learn that scientists’ are now able to map the relationship on an MRI and note its similarity with the way humans process language is certainly something to give us paws (pun intended)!