img: Gábor et al. (2021)

dogs in mri scanners listening to their owners' praising voice show larger activation in the auditory & learning-and-reward areas of their brain, as compared with listening to neutral or a stranger's voice. woof!  

original article: Gábor et al., 2021 (NeuroImage), reported in: The Daily Mail by Shivali Best on 8th September 2021 image source

this story was in episode 17 #dog #MRI #scanner #speech #social

the error bar says

among the most popular topics of neuroscience media stories is dog behaviour. the error bar has resisted reporting on almost all of them, just like it has resisted stories about elon musk or from the Daily Express. today i could not resist. i'll bite.

the Daily Mail reminds us that dogs really are man's best friend & that their brain reacts to their owner's voice the same way a human child's brain reacts to its parent.

in this study, dogs were trained to lie still - in a large medical brain scanner - & headphones were placed over their ears. during the experiment they listened to either their owners or someone they'd met only recently talking for about 5 seconds, either praising the dog - good boy! - or reading a recipe.

the experiment found that the auditory cortex - an important part of the brain involved in hearing - & the caudate nucleus - an important area involved in movement, learning, reward & punishment - were more activated both by the praise - good boy! - & by the owner's voice.

do dogs' brains respond more to their owners voice?


whether i'm just in a good mood, or if it's just the oxytocin & dopamine bubbling away in my brain after watching the Daily Mail's dog videos, or because both this study & the Mail's report are really quite good indeed, i'm going to give this study a big tasty biscuit!

this paper is a delight! it reads like any sensible-sounding brain imaging experiment, with all the things you'd expect to find - sparse sampling, anatomical template registration, linear models & familywise error corrections. but the participants are doggies!

the 14 dogs were given three months of training to lie still, with headphones on, in the noisy scanner for at least 6 minutes at a time. during the experiment this was repeated about 5 times while they listened to their own & another human talk nearby.

while i looked hard for things to find fault with, i failed. this is no 'shaggy dog story', but rather a heart-warming tail of human & dog, together at last in the brain scanner.


good boy!


The Daily Mail: fact - scientific story reported well