Dogs Understand Emotions Like Humans New Study Shows


A report has recently been released by a research group in Hungary which shows that dogs understand and react to emotions the same way that humans do – at least in their brain. The MTA-ELTE Research Group based in Hungary announced in a press release that dogs have “dedicated voice areas in their brains, just as people do.” This area of the brain in both dogs and humans is used to receive and interpret emotions.

Attila Andics, a researcher of the MTA-ELTE Research Group explains that their findings show that dogs and humans “use similar brain mechanisms to process social information.” The research they conducted may explain why many consider dogs to be “man’s best friend.”

The researchers had to utilize an MRI brain scanner in order to examine how dog’s brains and human’s brains both react to emotions. Because an MRI requires the patient to lay still, Andics and other MTA-ELTE researchers trained dogs to “lay motionless,” allowing them to get accurate and effective readings of their brains. While the dogs were in the MRI, the researchers played both human and dog sounds like crying, laughing, and different tones of barking in order to see how their brains would react. Andics and his colleagues found that dogs react to certain sounds the same way that humans react to certain sounds. The report explains, “dog and human brains include voice areas in similar locations” and that dogs responded stronger to other dogs, in the same way that humans responded stronger to other humans.

Hungarian researchers trained eleven dogs to sit still in an MRI, allowing them to understand how dogs react to human sounds and emotions.

The study also found that a dog’s brains processes “emotionally loaded sounds” in the same that a human’s brain would. When the researchers played happy sounds, an area near the dog’s primary auditory cortex lit up more than when they played unhappy sounds. Human’s brains react the same way towards these sounds as well, showing that both dogs and humans experience and interpret emotions in a similar fashion.

Dogs have been known to be exceptionally good at understanding human’s feelings and emotions, so much in fact, that some dogs have been used to help patients in therapy. Organizations like “Therapy Dogs United” and the “International Association of Assistance Dog Partners” have helped people recovering from emotional stress or psychological problems by using the company of dogs as a form of therapy. Therapy Dogs United brings therapy dogs to patients free of charge. The organization believes that these dogs can reduce blood pressure, anxiety, depression by “providing emotional support.” The Hungarian study provides proof  of this phenomenon and helps to explain why dogs are so effective in treating and relieving emotional stress.

The Hungarian study done by Andics and his team shows that a dog’s loyalty and compassion towards humans comes from their ability to understand emotions just like humans. The research may also help to explain why some dogs are so affectionate, and loyal towards their owners. There is a famous story about a Japanese dog named Hachiko who waited for his owner at the same train station every day for years, even after his owner’s death. There is another story about a German shepherd named Capitan who found his owner’s grave and waited by its side for six years. Dogs have always been attributed as “man’s best friend.” Now that there is scientific proof showing the link between dog’s and human’s understanding of emotion, humans may likewise be considered “dog’s best friend.”

By Tyler Shibata


CBS News


Therapy Dogs United

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