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Like people, dogs have brain areas that respond to voices

MRI study may help explain how pups understand human communication

DOGS IN THE LAB  By training dogs to lie still for an fMRI scan, researchers were able to identify areas in the canine brain that respond to dog and human voices. 

By training pooches to lie absolutely still in a brain scanner, scientists have begun revealing the mysterious inner workings of the canine brain. Like their human companions, dogs use certain parts of their brains to detect voices, researchers report in the March 3 Current Biology.

What’s more, dog brains, like people’s, react to emotional cues. A playful yip, pleading whine and aggressive bark elicit varying levels of activity in a certain brain region. Human laughs or cries have similar effects on dogs’ brains, functional magnetic resonance imaging shows. The results might help explain how dogs sense their owners’ emotions. 

“Dogs are really good at tuning into their owners’ feelings,” says study coauthor Attila Andics of MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group in Budapest. But until this study, he adds, “we just had no idea what goes on in their brain.”

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