Thursday, October 24, 2013

Neuroscientist Proves Dogs Experience Emotions

Dog feelings: Canines have emotions just like humans, shows new research

Months of research: Gregory Berns, a professor at neuroeconomics at Emory University, Atlanta, has discovered that dogs have emotion
Gregory Berns, neuroeconomics professor

 All pet owners have known dogs have emotion, but now science has proven it for any of the naysayers.

  • Gregory Berns, a professor of neuroeconomics at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, says dogs use the same area of the brain as humans do to feel
  • Berns' research is the result of months of MRI scans on dogs who are not sedated but trained to sit perfectly still in the machine
  • The results show that dogs use the caudate nucleus part of the brain when responding to humans they know
  • It is the same part of the brain humans use in the anticipation of things we enjoy, like food, love and money
  • Berns says this shows that dogs have a level of sentience comparable to that of a human child
  • He says this should change the way we perceive dogs and how we treat them
Dog feelings: Canines have emotions just like humans, shows new research By Marie-louise Olson

A professor of neuroeconomics at a university in Georgia has discovered that dogs have emotion, just like humans.
Not pleasant: Most humans do not like MRI scans as they are noisy and you are required to lie completely stillGregory Berns, a professor of neuroeconomics at Emory University, Atlanta, who has been testing the results of MRI scans on his dog’s brain, has discovered that our canine friends use the same part of the brain as humans to ‘feel’.
His initial goal was to determine how dogs’ brains work and what they think of humans, according to the New York Times.

By looking directly at their brains and bypassing the constraints of behaviourism, MRIs can tell humans about dogs’ internal states.
People usually do not enjoy MRI scans and you have to hold completely still during the procedure.
In conventional veterinary practice, animals are put under anaesthetic so they don’t move during a scan.
'But that means they can’t study their brain functions, at least, not anything interesting like perception or emotion,' says Berns.
He started training his own dog, Callie, a skinny black terrier mix from the southern Appalachians, to go into the MRI simulator he had built in his living room.
With the help of his friend, Mark Spivak, a dog trainer, the dog learned to place her head in a custom-fitted chin rest and hold rock-still for up to 30 seconds.

After months of training and some trial-and-error at the real MRI scanner, they were rewarded with the first maps of brain activity and managed to determine which parts of her brain distinguished the scents of familiar and unfamiliar dogs and humans.
He found there was a striking similarity between dogs and humans in both the structure and function of a key brain region: the caudate nucleus.
The caudate sits between the brainstem and the cortex and is rich in dopamine receptors.
In humans, the caudate plays a key role in the anticipation of things we enjoy, like food, love and money, according to Berns.
In dogs, the research found that activity in the caudate increased in response to hand signals indicating food.
The caudate also activated to the smells of familiar humans. And in preliminary tests, it activated to the return of an owner who had momentarily stepped out of view.
'Do these findings prove that dogs love us? Not quite. But many of the same things that activate the human caudate, which are associated with positive emotions, also activate the dog caudate,' said Berns.
Neuroscientists call this a functional homology, and it may be an indication of canine emotions.
The ability to experience positive emotions, like love and attachment, would mean that dogs have a level of sentience comparable to that of a human child.

Studio Shot Of A Basset Hound Sitting On White Background --- Image by © Sherry Lemcke/First Light/Corbis

Berns believes this begs a change in the way humans think about dogs, which have long been considered property.
Though the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 raised the bar for the treatment of animals, they solidified the view that animals are things — objects that can be disposed of as long as reasonable care is taken to minimise their suffering.
He suggest the idea that, since the Supreme Court has already included neuroscientific findings in some cases showing brain imaging to determine whether someone is mature in adolescence, then ‘perhaps someday we may see a case arguing for a dog’s rights based on brain-imaging findings’.

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Gift/Memorial Suggestions

Several of our friends have lost loved ones (human and pets) and we found that one of the best ways to honor their memory is to give to an animal charity.
What better way to recognize a life of love, than by giving another life a chance for love?
We donate to many animal rescues, but because we volunteer with
DC Weimaraner Rescue and Coast-to-Coast Dachshund Rescue, those are our 2 favorites.
Consider giving the chance of life to a dog or cat.

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We're two married guys who enjoy the simple things in life, especially our dogs. We volunteer for dog rescues, enjoy splitting dinners, exercising, blogging, helping friends and neighbors, ghost investigations, coffee and tea, Tudor history, weather, superheroes, comic books, mystery novels, traveling, 70s and 80s music, classic country, piano, gardening, writing books on ghosts and spirits, architecture, keeping a clean house, cooking simply, and keeping in shape. You'll find tidbits of all of these things on this blog and more.

Tom and Rob Thinking Hard!

Tom and Rob Thinking Hard!
Wondering what home project to do next