The dog gives a different attention to the human than to its innate

A new scientific publication highlights the specific treatment of human manifestations in dogs.

We all know from experience that our dogs listen to us, and understand us to some degree. But the question that bothers us all is, how well they understand usand more poetically, how human do they become?

The dog gives a different attention to the human than to its innate
Your dog is trying to understand you – Credits: Unsplash

Anna Bálint, a neuroscientist at Eötvös Loránd University, explores these questions from different angles. Those Approaches are of course dependent on the observation tools is at our disposal today.

The choice of electroencephalogram

To try to figure out what’s going on in our heads, one of the most informative tools is fMRI. Research already done on dogs using this technology has highlighted specific brain areas that are activated after stimuli. However, they do not make it possible to identify exactly when the neurons are activated, and above all, they have not made it possible to observe differences in the way the lots of neurons are activated, depending on the type of stimulus. In this case of human or canine origin.

Anna Bálint then chose the electroencephalogram or EEC. The latter enables real-time (and accurate) observation of the electrical waves produced in the brain according to a stimulus. The process was used on 17 pet dogs. But the task is not as simple as with a human being.

Technical difficulties associated with the observation of dogs

First, dogs need to learn it stay quiet in an unfamiliar environment for an ideal duration of 7 minutes. If the extent of their understanding remains unknown, it did not seem helpful to explain to them why and how their situation.

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The non-invasive experimental installation set up by Anna Bálint's team - Credits: Anna Bálint, Huba Eleőd, Lilla Magyari, Anna Kis and Márta Gácsi
The non-invasive experimental installation set up by Anna Bálint’s team – Credits: Anna Bálint, Huba Eleőd, Lilla Magyari, Anna Kis and Márta Gácsi

The second difficulty is our dog friends’ skull box. She is full of muscle which hinders the clarity of the measurements obtained. Make the task even more complex.

Following these difficulties, the research team got the brave dogs of the families to listen to recordings of human and dog voices. They included all kinds of demonstrations, all non-verbal, barking or not.

Study results

The absence of a significant difference in cerebral response below the 250 millisecond threshold, a threshold identified in humans as related to sound quality differentiations such as pitch, suggests lack of differentiation of sources.

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But, and this is what particularly attracts our attention, recorded brain waves manifested differently between 250 and 650 milliseconds. This time interval is usually identified in humans as related to motivation and decision making. Analogously, this would indicate that dogs were simply trying to decide how to react to “events”, depending on whether they came from humans or dogs.

Diagram showing the differences in measurements depending on the human or canine nature of the stimulus - Credits: Anna Bálint, Huba Eleőd, Lilla Magyari, Anna Kis and Márta Gácsi
Diagram showing the differences in measurements depending on the human or canine nature of the stimulus – Credits: Anna Bálint, Huba Eleőd, Lilla Magyari, Anna Kis and Márta Gácsi

Thus, the study highlights a special cerebral treatment assigned to human manifestations. If they do not understand everything, dogs seek to understand us in a different way than they would with one of their fellow dogs. Perhaps better than we do through our systematic anthropomorphism.

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Source: RoyalSociety

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