Our Vocal Ties to Dogs

Our Vocal Ties to Dogs

DOGS and humans process voices in the same part of their brains, which helps explain why they understand each other so well.

Hungarian scientists have analysed the brain functions that enable dogs to interpret each other’s barks and whines, after training animals to lie absolutely still in MRI scanners.

The study, outlined in the journal Current Biology, revealed that dogs process vocalisations in the auditory cortex and subcortical regions of the brain, as do humans. Previously, only primates had been known to have “voice areas” in their brains.

“Many claim that voice sensitivity is the key to the evolution of human language,” said lead author Attila Andics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. “Now we see the brain mechanisms so important to language are also there in dogs.”

The findings suggest the special bond between man and his best friend may go back 100 million years, when the two species’ common ancestor existed, and not just the 30,000 or so years that people and dogs have been living together.

The study required 11 dogs to lie motionless for six-minute stints. It took six years to train them to lie still enough, with movements of 3mm ruining the scans.

The training involved excessive patting as the dogs lay in the scanner bed, watched on by less experienced dogs. “It was surprising, for them, to get praised so easily,” Dr Andics said. “As soon as they got to the building, they just wanted to get to the scanner.”

He said the technique would allow the team to explore other aspects of dog neurology, like their exceptional sense of smell. “This is the first time we can look into the brain of a dog and see what goes on in there.”

The technique also opens up a new avenue for studying human evolution, which has largely relied on evolutionarily similar creatures like apes. Dr Andics said the “common history” of dogs and people made joint studies feasible. “We can ask far-looking evolutionary questions, but we can also work together,” he said.

 

Source: The Australian

 

Comment: Apart from the “Ahhh….” factor, there is also the bleeding obvious: That every dog-lover knows this anyway!

More seriously, at least this starts to crack open the box of evolutionary constrained thinking we have inherited from Darwin, and start to get is looking more laterally and also more holistically in our planetary existence.