It has been a long-stated belief by dog lovers that dogs are more in tune with human emotions than any other animal. They know when their owners are sad; they know when they need an extra bit of their love. As it turns out, according to a new study published in Current Biology, dogs really are able to sense the emotions of humans.
Scientists in Hungary have discovered that within a dog's brain is a small patch that is devoted to deciphering emotions in both humans and other dogs. This patch is similar to the one found in humans, when they hear happy barks or giggles, the region lights up. However, when dogs hear sadder yelps or whines, the region responds less. Attila Andics, of MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group in Hungary, theorizes that the same portion of the brain developed in the shared ancestor of humans and canines likely before the two species split, which is why it remained so similar in both.
After the initial theory that humans and dogs shared this same voice-detection area of the brain, researches had to accomplish the impossible: get 11 dogs to sit still long enough to conduct an MRI of their brain while listening to a recording of 200 environmental (telephones ringing, hammer hitting a nail, ect.), human and canine sounds. If the canine moved even a few millimeters, then the MRI would need to be started over. After a lot of patience and treats, the researchers finished the tests on a mix of border collies, labradors and golden retrievers.
After analyzing the scans, the researchers discovered that the exact same portion of the brain did indeed light up in canines. So next time you pooch gives you a nuzzle after crying or lays next to you are a bad day, they really do understand how you are feeling.
Full study can be seen here: http://www.cell.com/current-biology/retrieve/pii/S0960982214001237