As I write this very blog my two dogs are leaning right up against me clueing me into the answer to this question. It is a very obvious answer that dogs are truly mans best friend but what do dogs think about people? Are people dogs best friend? People have always wondered what animals thought and now its becoming a possibility with Brain Scans. Dogs live in about 50% of American homes so a study like this could affect half of the country and peak the interest of the whole world. Dogs were gathered in an MR Research Center in Budapest and scientists studied the brain activity and chemical reactions in the brain to better understand how dogs feel towards their human companions.
“Because dogs can’t speak, scientists have relied on behavioral observations to infer what dogs are thinking.” (Berns 2013) Scientists can’t ask a dog why it did something or how it feels so there has been a roadblock in animal studies for years which is a huge business. Now according to Gregory Berns by training dogs to willingly go through MRI machines we can “bypass the constraints of behaviorism” and learn about the internal state of dogs.
Gregory Berns trained volunteer dogs to work MRI machines because if dogs were sedated you couldn’t research their emotions and perceptions. He started with his dog Callie, a skinny black terror mix, to go into the MRI machine and sit completely still for 30 seconds. Gregory Berns and his team have already made many connections and realizations about the canine brain and have gathered 12 more MRI certified dogs.
Gregory Berns looked into mainly how dogs process scents because that is how dogs understand everything around them; through their nose. Scientists found that “dog owners’ aroma actually sparked activation in the “reward center” of their brains, called the caudate nucleus.” The caudate nucleus is where most of the action occurs inside dogs brains and Berns actually found out that dogs prioritize human scents of the smell of anything else and actually think of people as family and value them more than their own family of dogs.
This study has found that the human caudate is actually very similar to the canine caudate. Dogs react to smells and familiar faces much like people do so its only safe to assume that canines love their loyal companions. Berns has found that “many of the same things that activate the human caudate, which are associated with positive emotions, also activate the dog caudate.” We aren’t positive that dogs love us but its a pretty safe bet.
MRI studies on animals brains haven’t fully convinced me on the reliability of the findings because a great deal of the study is relating dogs brains to peoples but it makes a great deal of sense and seems like it can help better understand the world around us. Maybe it can one day help understand why some animals are aggressive or why some animals do what they do. For right now much of that is a mystery but soon enough I’m sure we will figure it out. And the whole time I wrote this, my puppy Wembly never left my side.
For more about Berns’s study you can check out this NY Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/06/opinion/sunday/dogs-are-people-too.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0