Dogs Have Special Reaction To Human Speech

Liberals might like cats, but it might be their dogs who understand them. From PBS Newshour:

In a finding sure to delight many a dog lover, a study published Thursday suggests the brains of canines react to human voices in a very human-like way.

The study, published in the journal Current Biology, was conducted by scientists at Eotvos University in Budapest and concluded that dogs’ brains contain a vocal region that functions similarly to the region located in the temporal lobe of human brains. In addition, the researchers found that vocal emotional cues activated a similarly located non-primary auditory region of the brain in both humans and canines.

Translation? The next time you hear a pet owner say their beloved pooch can actually understand what they’re saying, they may be correct.

The study placed 11 well-trained pups and 22 human subjects inside an MRI machine and measured the location and response characteristics of electrical impulses in their brains after playing an array of 200 different noises for them ranging from car sounds and whistles to human voices. The findings were striking.

“We do know there are voice areas in humans, areas that respond more strongly to human sounds that any other types of sounds,” Dr. Attila Andics, the lead author of the study, explained to BBC. “The location (of the activity) in the dog brain is very similar to where we found it in the human brain. The fact that we found these areas exist at all in the dog brain is a surprise — it is the first time we have seen this in a non-primate.”

Beyond simple vocal recognition and processing, the study confirmed something dog owners have long suspected: dogs can understand and react to human emotions.

“We know very well that dogs are very good at tuning into the feelings of their owners,” said Andics, “and we know a good dog owner can detect emotional changes in his dog – but we now begin to understand why this can be.”

Andics said this points to the ancient history between humans and dogs, and that the evolutionary origins of the species’ relationship may have even older origins than previously known…

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