Dogs CAN understand human emotion: Canine brain reacts to vocal sounds same way as people

The brains of dogs and humans were found to process emotional sounds in the same way as humans, in the first study to examine a canine brain in such detail

Many dog owners will tell you their pet can pick up on when they are happy or sad, and now, scientists have proved that they may well be right.

The new research found that the brain of a dog reacts in the same way as the human brain when played sounds including laughing and crying.

“Dogs and humans use similar brain mechanisms to process social information and this is the first step to understanding what makes vocal communications betweens dogs and humans so successful,” said Attila Andics, lead author of the research.

11 dogs were carefully trained to lie still in an fMRI scan at the Hungarian Academy of Science's Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest for the study.

It wasn’t an easy process and took 12 training classes, along with seven sessions in the scanner room. In the end though the dogs were happy to take part, said Dr Marta Gasci.

“The dogs training was based on positive reinforcement techniques,” she said. “Lots of praise while they were lying on the scanner, and of course lots of food rewards."

The team also got the lesser trained dogs to watch the experienced dogs on the scanner so they could see all the rewards and attention the other was getting. “It made them want to get on the scanner bed, participate in the task,” said Dr Gasci.

22 human volunteers took part in the research, the first ever comparative neuroimaging study of a nonprimate and a primate species.

Each of the people and dogs were played the same 200 different noises including non-word human sounds, barking, cars and whistles.

It was found that the areas of the brain activated by the various sounds was strikingly similar in dogs and humans. Dogs did however react much more strongly to dog sounds than the human sounds. 

“Dogs have dedicated voice areas in their brain, just as people do,” said Dr Andics. “The voice area of the dog brain responds more strongly to dog sounds, the human more strongly to human sounds.

“The voice areas are located vary similarly in the dog and human brain, this means these areas evolved at least 100 million years ago - the age of the last common ancestor of humans and dogs.”

Video courtesy of the MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group in Hungary

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Angel Di Maria is shown the red card
tech
Sport
Roger Federer after his win over Tomas Berdych
sport
Life and Style
News in briefs: big pants in 'Bridget Jones's Diary'
fashionBig knickers are back
Sport
James Milner is set to sign for Liverpool this week despite rival interest from Arsenal
sportReds baulk at Benteke £32.5m release clause
News
The controversial Motor Neurone Disease Association poster, featuring sufferer Michael Smith, has drawn a series of angry complaints
newsThis one has been criticised for its 'threatening tone'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: European Sales Director - Aerospace Cable & Wire

£100000 - £125000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a top tier supplier to the...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Project Manager

£17100 - £22900 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an intermediate help de...

Recruitment Genius: CNC Turner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This long established manufactu...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral