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Study: Dogs Detect Emotions The Same Way Humans Do

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(credit: Chelsea Karnash/CBSPhilly)

(credit: Chelsea Karnash/CBSPhilly)

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Researchers continue to give humans more insight into the inner-workings of man’s best friend.

In the latest study, scientists now say that dogs can detect human emotions in the same way that humans can. And, like humans, canines also have a dedicated voice area in their brain.

Researchers from the MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group in Hungary apparently scanned the brains of 11 dogs using an fMRI while the pups listened to almost 200 sounds – both human and canine. The sounds included whining, laughing, happy barking and more.

The images from the fMRI reveal that not only do dogs process auditory information in similar areas of the brain, but pups also process “emotionally loaded sounds” in a strikingly similar fashion to humans.

“Dogs and humans share a similar social environment,” says Attila Andics, of the MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group. “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.”

According to the researchers, in both dogs and humans, an area near the primary auditory cortex lit up more with happy sounds than unhappy ones.

Dogs were also more responsive to sounds from other dogs – unsurprisingly, as people are more sensitive to the sounds of other people, too.

The study was published in the Feb. 20th issue of the journal Current Biology, and scientists say it’s the first “comparative neuroimaging study of a nonprimate species and humans.”

“The study is the first step toward understanding how it is that dogs can be so remarkably good at tuning into the feelings of their human owners,” the study’s authors note.

Recently, other studies revealed dogs may be capable of feeling human emotions and that dogs can recognize their owner’s face.

For more information on the Hungarian study, click here.

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