Saturday, 03 September 2016 13:49

Who’s a clever boy? Your dog really does know what you’re saying, and brain scans show how

Written by 
Rate this item
(1 Vote)

Whos a clever boy? Your dog really does know what youre saying, and brain scans show how

No, really — he actually does. So say scientists in Hungary, who have published a groundbreaking study that found dogs understand both the meaning of words and the intonation used to speak them. Put simply: Even if you use a very excited tone of voice to tell the dog he’s going to the vet, he’ll probably see through you and be bummed about going.

It had already been established that dogs respond to human voices better than their wolf brethren, are able to match hundreds of objects to words and learn elements of grammar, and can be directed by human speech. But the new findings mean dogs are more like humans than was previously known: They process language using the same regions of the brain as people, according to the researchers, whose paper was published in Science.

This had already been demonstrated in studies that observed dogs, but no one had seen how it works inside the canine brain. To determine this, Attila Andics and colleagues at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest recruited 13 family dogs mostly golden retrievers and border collies and trained them to sit totally still for seven minutes in an fMRI scanner that measured their brain activity. (The pups were not restrained, and they could leave the scanner at any time, the authors assured.)


A female trainer familiar to the dogs then spoke words of praise that all their owners said they used thats it, clever, and well done and neutral, common words such as yet and if, which the researchers believed were meaningless to the animals. Each dog heard each word in both a neutral tone and a happy, atta-boy tone.

Using the brain activity images, the researchers saw that the dogs processed the familiar words regardless of intonation, and they did so using the left hemisphere, just like humans. Tone, or the emotion behind the word, on the other hand, was analyzed in the auditory regions of the right hemisphere just as it is in people, the study said.

In an e-mail, co-author Tamás Faragó acknowledged that the left hemispheres response to praise words didnt prove the dogs were comprehending meaning and not simply reacting to familiarity. But, he said, its safe to assume the dogs hear the neutral words in daily human conversation as often as they hear the praise words, so the main difference will be not familiarity, but whether the word is addressed to the dog or not. In other words, whether it has meaning for the pooch.


Finally, the researchers saw that the dogs rewards center which is stimulated by pleasant things such as petting and food and sex did the brain equivalent of jumping and yelping when positive words were spoken in a positive tone.

It shows that for dogs, a nice praise can very well work as a reward, but it works best if both words and intonation match, Andics said in a statement. So dogs not only tell apart what we say and how we say it, but they can also combine the two, for a correct interpretation of what those words really meant.

The researchers said its unlikely that human selection of dogs during their domestication, which occurred at least 15,000 years ago, could have led to this sort of brain function; Faragó said that its more possible it would be a side effect of other dog traits selected by humans, such as attention. But he said he and his co-authors think these neural mechanisms are probably far more ancient, and perhaps more widespread than we thought before.


That means we arent as special as we like to think, at least when it comes to how our brains deal with language. What makes words uniquely human, Andics said, is that we came up with using them.


Oh, and if youre a cat person? Faragó said its likely they (and other domestic animals) might also be able to understand words and tone. But given that cats were domesticated thousands of years later and have generally lived less closely to humans, they might not be as adept as dogs. They certainly wouldnt be as cooperative on an fMRI scanner.


Read 242883 times Last modified on Saturday, 03 September 2016 14:17


  • Comment Link Carlos Eduardo Correa da Veig Sunday, 19 November 2017 11:41 posted by Carlos Eduardo Correa da Veig

    Hi there, for all time i used to check website posts here in the early hours in the morning, because i like to find out more and more.|

  • Comment Link Mary Sunday, 19 November 2017 11:01 posted by Mary

    Hi friends, how is the whole thing, and what you
    want to say concerning this article, in my view
    its genuinely awesome in favor of me.

  • Comment Link Va A este site Sunday, 19 November 2017 11:01 posted by Va A este site

    Do you mind if I quote a few of your articles as long as I provide credit and
    sources back to your site? My blog is in the exact same niche as yours and my visitors would genuinely benefit from
    a lot of the information you present here. Please let me know if this alright with you.
    Appreciate it!;u=126448

  • Comment Link A Go Back To Bondage (No! Not T Sunday, 19 November 2017 10:59 posted by A Go Back To Bondage (No! Not T

    I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you make this website yourself or
    did you hire someone to do it for you? Plz respond as I'm looking to design my own blog and
    would like to find out where u got this from. thanks

  • Comment Link health articles Sunday, 19 November 2017 10:29 posted by health articles

    Greate pieces. Keep writing such kind of info on your page.

    Im really impressed by your blog.
    Hey there, You have done an incredible job.

    I'll definitely digg it and individually
    suggest to my friends. I am sure they'll be benefited from this
    web site.

  • Comment Link funny christmas t shirts Sunday, 19 November 2017 10:25 posted by funny christmas t shirts

    Attгactive component of contеnt. I simply stumbled upon your web site
    ɑnd in accession cɑpital to assеrt that I acquire actually loved account your webloɡ posts.
    Anyway I'll be subscribing to your feeds and even I achievement you access consiѕtently quickly.

  • Comment Link funny christmas t shirts Sunday, 19 November 2017 10:20 posted by funny christmas t shirts

    It's very easy to find out any tоpic on net as cokpared
    tߋ bοoks, as I found this paragraph at tһis websitе.

  • Comment Link sell home in vegas Sunday, 19 November 2017 10:06 posted by sell home in vegas

    It's fantastic that you are getting thoughts from this article as well as from our
    discussion made at this time.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 19 November 2017 09:58 posted by

    Hi to all, how is the whole thing, I think every one is getting more from this
    web page, and your views are good in favor of new people.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 19 November 2017 09:49 posted by

    When she's needed, the male views her being
    a functionary who meets his needs. If you have the impression that there are women which might be
    through your league, this is particularly TRUE.
    The profile for all those its lady members have to get
    doubly confirmed before these are posted on the site.

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated. HTML code is not allowed.