Emotion Detector Found In Fido’s Brain

2014-1101 Several pictures of dogs and MRI
You need me to lie still inside this noisy MRI scanner for 10 minutes? No problem. Just give me some treats. Volunteers pose with the brain scanner at the MR Research Centre in Budapest.
Courtesy of Borbala Ferenczy and Eniko Kubinyi

Dogs always seem to know when you’re upset and need extra love, even though they hardly understand a word of what you say. How can that be?

Our four-legged friends have a little patch of their brain devoted to deciphering emotions in human and dog voices, scientists reported Thursday in the journal Current Biology.

“It’s the first step to understanding how dogs can be so attuned to their owner’s feelings,” says Attila Andics, a neurobiologist at the MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group in Budapest, who led the study.

We heard there's a neuroscience experiment happening. Where do we sign up?
We heard there’s a neuroscience experiment happening. Where do we sign up?
Courtesy of Eniko Kubinyi

To find the brain region, Andics and his team first had to accomplish the seemingly impossible: Get 11 pooches to lie motionless inside an MRI brain scanning machine for nearly 10 minutes at a time, all while listening to nearly 200 people and dog noises.

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Thanks to Michaeleen Douceleff for writing the article; NPR for committing its resources to publishing the article; Attila Andics for leading the research that was used as the basis for Douceleff’s article and this post; the journalĀ Current Biology for publishing the study findings; all the dogs for participating in the study; Google for helping me find the article; and all the people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible for me to include the pictures and text I used in this post.

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