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Dogs Experience Similar Emotions as Humans, Study

Update Date: Oct 07, 2013 08:20 PM EDT
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Dogs may be similarly in tune with humans' emotions. The caudate nucleus, a region belonging to the structure and function of the human and canine brain has been recently studied through canine MRI's showing us that our furry companions may "feel" more than we know.

Professor of Neuroeconomics, Gregory Berns from Emory University has performed a two year study on how dogs are receptive to human interaction and how their brains function. With the assistance of his friend Mark Spivak, a dog trainer, the study has been made possible. 

According to The New York Times, since dogs are incapable of speaking, scientists have had to resort to observing their behaviors in an attempt to understand what they are thinking and feeling. However, with Berns canine MRI study, we are capable to learn more of the mystery.

"By looking directly at their brains and bypassing the constraints of behaviorism, MRI's can tell us about dogs' internal states," Berns said in the Times.

Berns' dog Callie, a skinny black terrier mix that was rescued from a shelter in the southern Appalachians, was the first to undergo his study.

With several months of training, Spivak and Berns taught Callie how to place herself into a mock MRI simulator that was built in Berns' living room. 

She was taught how to assemble her head in a chin rest customized to her chin structure and how to hold still for the longevity of 30 seconds at a time. In addition, Callie had to get comfortable with wearing earmuffs to protect her sensitive hearing from the uncomfortably loud noise the scanner made.After successfully obtaining an MRI of Callie, Berns observed that the caudate in canines like humans was activated in similar ways.

Based on Berns study, located directly between the brainstem and the cortex, the caudate nucleus was found to increase the response of hand signals for demonstrating food and the smells of familiar humans.   

Comparatively enough, the anticipation of food humans eat, the love we feel for others and our joy for money is also the function of the caudate said Berns. 

"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," said Berns. "And this ability suggests a rethinking of how we treat dogs."

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