Is a dog’s brain naturally wired for human companionship?

Man's best friend (Image: amazonaws.com)

Man's best friend (Image: amazonaws.com)

Every man and his dog knows that diamonds are a girl’s best friend.

Everyone else is well aware that dogs are man’s best friend.

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors were responsible for the domestication of wild wolf species. These wolves were the ancestors of our canine companions.

Research published today in PeerJ however, has potentially shed some light on why this domestication was so incredibly successful. Why our pet dogs are so in-tune with our social cues, and us.

Like humans and other primates, dogs possess an actual structure in their brain dedicated to facial recognition

Test subjects were highly trained before the research could even begin (Image: PeerJ)

Dogs trained to endure fMRI imaging while observing a variety of images (Image: PeerJ)

The research required six dogs to sit motionless, awake and sober, while their brain was analysed using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

This is impressive in itself, but the dogs were also trained to ignore all potential distractions, including the loud, high-pitched noises coming from the fMRI instrument.

Futhermore, the dogs were trained to focus on a TV screen that flashed images of random objects or scenes, as well as faces of humans and other dogs.

The brain of each dog responded more to the human and dog faces when compared to other images displayed. The fMRI results also localized a face-selective region in the temporal cortex of the canine brains.

This is the first evidence of face processing in animals other than primates.

It is therefore, even clearer now, why the domestication of their wolf ancestors was so effective. The potential was already built-in.

When you think about it, how can you be friends with someone if you can’t recognize them every time you meet?

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