Brain Scans Show Dogs Think of Humans as Family More than Fellow Dogs

When researchers presented canines with odors of other dogs, food, and their human masters, it was the scent of humans that excited dogs the most.

Animal cognition scientists at Emory University have trained dogs to lie still while scanning their brains with MRI machines. When researchers presented canines with odors of other dogs, food, and their human masters, it was the scent of humans that excited dogs the most.

"The scientists found that dog owners' aroma actually sparked activation in the 'reward center' of their brains, called the caudate nucleus. Of all the wafting smells to take in, dogs actually prioritized the hint of humans over anything or anyone else."

The results of this study verify an earlier experiment done in Budapest where researchers investigated how dogs react to sounds. Like humans, when dogs hear sounds with joyful undertones, the reward center of their brains light up and they become excited.

Researchers noticed other special characteristics of dogs: they are the only non-primate to look humans in the eye and the only domesticated animal to run toward humans for protection and comfort when they are distressed. Cats and horses, for example, run away.

The ability of dogs to bond with humans relies on our emotional attachment to them as well. When researchers scanned the brains of human mothers who had both a baby and a dog for more than two years, they found the activated the brain's reward centers in equal amounts.

Translator David Bellos argues that to dogs, humans are the barking animals. Bellos wants to expand the definition of a language to include animal communication systems:

Read more at Brain Mic

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Related Articles

Human skeletal stem cells isolated in breakthrough discovery

It's a development that could one day lead to much better treatments for osteoporosis, joint damage, and bone fractures.

Image: Nissim Benvenisty
Surprising Science
  • Scientists have isolated skeletal stem cells in adult and fetal bones for the first time.
  • These cells could one day help treat damaged bone and cartilage.
  • The team was able to grow skeletal stem cells from cells found within liposuctioned fat.
Keep reading Show less

How exercise helps your gut bacteria

Gut bacteria play an important role in how you feel and think and how well your body fights off disease. New research shows that exercise can give your gut bacteria a boost.

National Institutes of Health
Surprising Science
  • Two studies from the University of Illinois show that gut bacteria can be changed by exercise alone.
  • Our understanding of how gut bacteria impacts our overall health is an emerging field, and this research sheds light on the many different ways exercise affects your body.
  • Exercising to improve your gut bacteria will prevent diseases and encourage brain health.
Keep reading Show less

Giving octopuses ecstasy reveals surprising link to humans

A groundbreaking new study shows that octopuses seemed to exhibit uncharacteristically social behavior when given MDMA, the psychedelic drug commonly known as ecstasy.

Image: damn_unique via Flickr
Surprising Science
  • Octopuses, like humans, have genes that seem to code for serotonin transporters.
  • Scientists gave MDMA to octopuses to see whether those genes translated into a binding site for serotonin, which regulates emotions and behavior in humans
  • Octopuses, which are typically asocial creatures, seem to get friendlier while on MDMA, suggesting humans have more in common with the strange invertebrates than previously thought
Keep reading Show less