An Emory University study using MRI scans of dogs’ brains has found that, similar to humans and other primates, dogs have a special region of the brain that processes human faces. This may not come as a big surprise to dog owners, but scientists say that this ability helps to explain why dogs are so sensitive to human social cues.
The study, conducted by the Dog Project at Emory’s Department of Psychology, examined how dogs responded to still and moving images of faces while in an MRI machine. The dogs were shown both human faces and dog faces, as well as images of everyday objects. All of the dogs in the study showed increased activity in the temporal lobe area of the brain when they saw human faces. They also reacted similarly when they saw dog faces. No other type of image triggered this response.
Researchers say that the ability to recognize faces is extremely important for social species like dogs and primates…and humans too, of course. Dogs have lived side by side with humans for a long time, and scientists speculate that this close relationship with people helps explain why they process our faces the same way as they process those of other dogs.
For more on the fascinating work being done by the Dog Project, click HERE. (You can even volunteer your dog if you live in the Atlanta area!)
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