Ever wonder what your dog’s really thinking? Well, you’re one step closer to finding out. Researchers at Emory University have developed a way to use MRI machines to explore the brains of dogs to see what makes them tick.
Up until now, MRIs have only been used to diagnose illness in sedated dogs, because the machines can’t focus on a moving target. So in order to study the brain activity of alert animals, Neuroscientist Dr. Gregory Berns had to train dogs over several months to walk into an MRI scanner and hold completely still while researchers measured their neural activity.
So, what did he discover about doggie brains? Dr. Berns found that the hand movements associated with giving the dogs a snack activated the reward center in their brains. But movements that weren’t linked with snacks, didn’t, which means, your dog knows your body language so well that they can anticipate a treat.
And Dr. Berns has big plans for MRI tests on dogs, among them are finding out if dogs can feel empathy, and determining how much human language they understand, and as the results come in, we’ll share them with you.