Science and Tech


New Study Shows Dogs And Humans Share Vocal Recognition

A Hungarian university discovered dogs process barks the way humans process speech.
Posted at 8:59 PM, Feb 20, 2014

Remember the last time you scolded your dog? He probably knew exactly what you meant.

A new study shows that dogs and humans share a cerebral link when it comes to vocal recognition. Using the same parts as human brains, little Fido is capable of recognizing voices and even determining their emotional tone. (Via Science Direct)

Researchers at Eotvos Lorand University measured the brain activity in 11 dogs and 22 humans, playing both dog barks and vocal samples during separate MRIs for each subject.

Unsurprisingly, the tested dogs responded strongest to other dog barks and non-vocal environmental noises, while the human subjects almost all preferred the voice samples. While the results aren't groundbreaking, research leader Attila Andics says it's an important finding.

"Dogs and humans use similar brain mechanisms to process social information. This is a first step to understand what makes vocal communication between dogs and humans so successful."

And cognitive ethologist Marc Bekoff says the findings probably aren’t limited to pet dogs, telling Wired, "Certainly wolves, coyotes and other undomesticated members of the canine genus are quite vocal and sensitive to emotion; perhaps that’s why humans and dogs made such a good team."

To measure the dogs' brain activity, researchers had to train the subjects for months to lay motionless for eight minutes. Sounds tough, but according to Andics: "They just love it, they can’t wait to be the next. I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t see it myself." (Via Los Angeles Times)

Since the research only included the golden retriever and border collie mix, the team hopes to test more breeds in the future.