There’s nothing better after a long, hard day than walking into your home to be smothered in genuine love, loyalty, and happiness.
So when I heard the scientific explanation of what happens to a dog’s brain when they see their owner, I became even more obsessed with my four-legged best friend!
Researchers from the University of Mexico recently conducted MRI scans on dogs to understand their emotional response when they come into contact with humans.
The study included five border collies, one golden retriever, and one labrador retriever from local families. The dogs were carefully trained to be comfortable and unrestrained in the MRI scanner. Researchers then showed the dogs 50 images of different humans and 50 images of inanimate objects.
By the end of the study, researchers were amazed by the results.
According to IFL Science, results showed the dogs’ temporal cortexes lighting up with activity when they were subjected to images of human faces. So what does that mean for those of us who are scientifically challenged?
“The temporal cortex is a part of the brain unique to mammals, involved in the high-level visual processing of complex stimuli, such as faces,” Tom Hale from IFL Science explained.
The researchers “suggest that this portion of the temporal cortex in dogs could be anatomically and functionally similar to regions found in other species, like humans”… meaning dogs use a visual pathway that’s almost identical to the ones humans use for processing faces.
If dogs just got a million times cooler in your book, prepare for your mind to be blown even more…
When researchers showed the images of humans to dogs, they also found a burst of activity in subcortical structures, such as the caudate. However, when showing the dogs everyday objects, the caudate region showed noticeably less activity.
Researchers claimed this pocket of the brain is involved in reward processes, suggesting that dogs find seeing a human face “intrinsically more rewarding than the sight of an object.”
The results reveal that dogs not only have a keen ability to recognise human faces and emotional cues, but also how the sight of a human ignites a dog’s reward system.
“In this case, they presented facial expressions and worked out that basically the same areas of the brain triggered in dogs as it does in humans in terms of reading and understanding facial cues,” said Bradley Smith, an animal behaviourist from the Central Queensland University, commenting on the research to ABC Australia.
No wonder dogs have been known as “man’s best friend” for more than 18,000 years. If the sight of a human being set off the reward system in my brain like it does for dogs, I would probably be just as happy, loving, and loyal as dogs are – no coffee needed.
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