It’s official: Men think like dogs. Women, too.
The first study to compare brain function between humans and non-primate animals found that dogs have “dedicated voice areas in their brains, just as people do,” and are also “sensitive to acoustic cues of emotion,” according to a statement on the findings published Thursday in the journal Current Biology.
“Dogs and humans share a similar social environment,” said Attila Andics, of the MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group in Hungary, who co-authored the study. “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.”
Andics and his team trained 11 dogs to lie still in an fMRI brain scanner, where they then captured their brain activity as they listened to close to 200 dog and human songs, including laughing, barking, crying and whining.
The resulting images showed that dogs and humans have voice areas in similar parts of their brains. Moreover, while dogs’ brains responded more strongly to the dog sounds, both humans’ and dogs’ brains reacted similarly to more emotionally-loaded sounds: an area near the primary auditory cortex “lit up more” with happy sounds compared to unhappy sounds.
There were some differences: almost half of the sound-sensitive brain
regions in dogs respond more strongly to sounds than voices. In humans, those
regions make up just 3 percent of the brain.
Nevertheless, the study suggests that the voice areas developed at least 100 million years ago, when humans and dogs shared their last common ancestor. It could ultimately lead to a better understanding of how dogs tune into the feelings of their human owners, Andics said.
"At last we begin to understand how our best friend is looking at us and navigating in our social environment,” Andics said.