Some say only their dog truly gets them. New research shows that may well be true – and the reason may date back 100 million years. It turns out dogs have dedicated “voice areas” in their brains just like us.
“Dogs and humans share a similar social environment,” Attila Andics of MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group in Hungary said in a statement released Thursday. “Our findings suggest that they also use similar brain mechanisms to process social information. This may support the successfulness of vocal communication between the two species.”
The research, published in the journal Current Biology, suggests that voice areas evolved about 100 million years ago – around the same time dogs and humans shared the last common ancestor, and that was long before dogs became domesticated between 18,000 to 32,000 years ago.
How did Andics and his colleagues figure this out?
They trained 11 dogs to lay motionless in an fMRI scanner, which is no small feat, to measure brain activity as the animals listened to nearly 200 dog and human sounds. The sounds included whining, crying, laughing and playful barking. Then, they compared the images to the human participants exposed to the same sounds.
The voice areas lit up in similar locations. They also found that emotionally-loaded sounds were processed in similar fashion. Happy sounds caused an area near the primary auditory cortex to light up more than unhappy ones.
The study could help us understand why dogs seems to be so good at picking up on their owners’ feelings.
“This method offers a totally new way of investigating neural processing in dogs,” Andics said. “At last we begin to understand how our best friend is looking at us and navigating in our social environment.”
Little wonder dogs have been our best friends for so long.
h/t CBS Photos Eniko Kubinyi & Borbala Ferenczy